Iranian Navy Says They Had Court Order to Seize Tanker Richmond Voyager

July 6, 2023 5:46 PM
Iranian Navy corvette IRINS Bayandor (81) on July 6, 2023. US Navy Photo

Officials in Tehran are claiming the warship that attempted to seize an oil tanker operating off the coast of Oman acted under a court order, according to Iranian state-controlled media.

Iranian search and rescue officials claimed oil tanker Richmond Voyager collided with an Iranian vessel injuring five crew members, the official IRINN news agency reported.

As a result, Tehran deployed the Iranian Navy corvette IRINS Bayandor (81) to seize the tanker, according to the report. Bayandor, built for the Imperial Iranian Navy in the 1960s, was identified by ship spotters as the vessel seen firing on Richmond Voyager in the video released by U.S. 5th Fleet Wednesday.

According to the summary of the incident, Iranian forces contacted the tanker over VHF radio and ordered Richmond Victory to stop to be boarded. The crew refused, and then Bayandor opened fire on the tanker, according to video released by U.S. 5th Fleet.

Iranian officials denied they had attempted to seize the ship prior to the U.S. 5th Fleet releasing the video. After the footage came out, the Iranian search and rescue services then released the information on the court order. The move by Tehran to change its story shows how some of the dynamics in the region have changed, Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told USNI News on Tuesday.

“The need for a new explanation after an earlier denial of the incident by Iran is simple: Tehran’s pride was badly hurt in a domain where it thought it could operate with impunity,” he told USNI News.
“Iran’s evolving story and attempt at lawfare spin after trying to seize two tankers in international waters is further proof that the U.S. took the right action by beefing up the force presence supporting the international maritime security construct.”

Since 2021, Iranian forces have harassed, attacked or seized 20 internationally flagged ships. Iran took control of two tankers within a week of each other this year, USNI News reported at the time. Following the seizures, the U.S. Navy increased the patrols in the Strait of Hormuz.

On Thursday, the sectarian Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy seized a tanker in the Persian Gulf, U.S. 5th Fleet told USNI News.

“On July 6, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forcibly seized a commercial vessel possibly engaged in smuggling activity,” Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said in a statement to USNI News.
“U.S. naval forces deployed maritime assets to closely monitor the situation. Ultimately, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command assessed the circumstances of this event did not warrant further response.”

Reports indicate the seized tanker was the Egyptian-flagged tanker Nada 2.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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