The capture of the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel took place on Thursday in international waters, the US Navy confirmed Friday. Iranian state television aired footage on Friday of the country's Navy commandos boarding the tanker, identified by US authorities as the Advantage Sweet, by helicopter and taking control of the ship.
Ship tracking data identified the vessel as a Suezmax crude tanker chartered by oil giant Chevron. It had last docked in Kuwait, where it picked up Kuwaiti crude oil, and had listed its destination as Houston, Texas. All 24 crew members aboard the ship are Indian.
A Chevron spokeswoman said the oil company "was aware of the situation" and was working on "resolving" the matter.
The US Navy’s 5th Fleet condemned Tehran's actions, claiming that the incident marked the fifth commercial vessel to be seized by Iran in two years.
“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement. “Iran should immediately release the oil tanker.”
"Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are a threat to maritime security and the global economy," 5th Fleet Spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins said while calling on Tehran to let the ship go.
Advantage Tankers, a Turkish firm that manages the vessel, said that the Advantage Sweet was "being escorted by the Iranian navy to a port on the basis of an international dispute."
US Naval Forces Central Command described Tehran's "continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters" as "a threat to maritime security and the global economy."
Tehran has defended its conduct, with state TV saying the seizure came after an "unknown ship collided with an Iranian vessel last night in the Persian Gulf, causing several Iranian crew members to go missing and get injured.”
CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla said last month that Iran "remains the most destabilizing actor in the region. Security of the seas and limiting the free flow of Iranian munitions is critical to regional security and stability."