Gulf of Oman: Tanker boarded by Iranian forces not arrested

Iranian naval forces boarded an oil and chemical tanker in the Gulf of Oman, numerous media outlets around the world reported today.

US Central Command

The vessel has been identified as the Liberian-flagged, 8,100 dwt MT Wila.

Initial reports indicated that the tanker was boarded 23 nautical miles NW of the Khor Fakkan Anchorage, south east of the Strait of Hormuz, on 12 August, according to maritime security intelligence company Dryad Global.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) shared a video on Twitter, claiming that MT Wila was overtaken and boarded by an Iranian “Sea King” helicopter and two ships.

View on Twitter.

The Iranian government did not immediately release any statements on the matter.

MT Wila has not been detained

Although initial source reporting indicated that a US Sentinel call sign had received word that the vessel had been boarded, the ship was not detained, Dryad confirmed in an update.

“We can confirm that the MV WILA has not been detained by Iranian Naval forces. The boarding comes after two other vessels MT CHEMWAY ARROW and MT FREUD were potentially harassed earlier this week.”

Dryad added that Wila is believed to have entered UAE’s territorial waters around 1720 UTC and is currently showing at the Khor Fakkan Anchorage as “Not Under Command”.

As explained, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces are believed to have potentially attempted to interdict two ships in the Persian Gulf earlier this month. On 8 August, the Marshall Islands-flagged MT Freud was transitting in the vicinity of Kish Island off Iran when it suddenly made an irregular northward turn before sailing into Iranian TTW for 40 minutes and afterward resuming its voyage to Saudi Arabia, Dryad said referring to information supplied by TankerTrackers.

What is more, the Panama-flagged vessel MT Chemway Arrow was transiting close to Iranian TTW, west of Lavan Island, on 11 August when it made an irregular northward turn and drifting in the Iranian waters for 6 hours before resuming voyage towards Jubail.

Motivation behind Iran’s actions

The 1997-built Wila may have been targeted due to its linkage to Greece, reports suggest. Wila is managed by the Greek-based IMS SA and owned by Greek-based owner Bandit Shipping Co.

Wila is also insured via the American Steamship Owner P&I Association adding an additional dynamic to the potential boarding, according to Dryad.

Several Greek companies were recently sanctioned by the US for their intended involvement in an Iranian oil shipment to Venezuela. The US is sanctioning companies involved in the exploitation of Venezuela’s oil assets to exert pressure on the government of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, by limiting Maduro’s use of the country’s crude oil exports to bankroll his regime.

“In targeting this vessel, Iran has potentially sought to send a clear message to vessels which decide to renege on their willingness to partake in, or facilitate, economic activities linked to the nation. Iran sees this issue as one of legitimacy, and Tehran would assert that its trading with Venezuela is open, transparent and does not break international law,” Dryad pointed out.

“Iran views US sanctions as an act of aggression, and those who backtrack due to the fear of sanctioning themselves as being complicit in maintaining this status quo.”

“It is crucial to underline that Iran’s actions today do not raise the overall risk posed by vessels within either the Gulf of Oman or Strait of Hormuz,” the maritime security intelligence company concluded.