A Vietnamese oil ship that had been held by Iran was released into open ocean on Wednesday, resolving the latest naval conflict between Tehran and global powers amid delayed nuclear talks.
According to data collected by The Associated Press from MarineTraffic.com, the Sothys left a location off Iran’s Bandar Abbas port and arrived in international waters in the adjacent Gulf of Oman early Wednesday. The ship looked to be anchored there, but no information about its crew was available.
“Sothys departed Iranian seas yesterday night after transferring the oil,” Shahrokh Nazemi, a spokeswoman for Iran’s UN mission, told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Officials from Vietnam could not be reached for comment, however they had previously stated that they were seeking to gather further information from Iran concerning the seizure.
The 5th Fleet of the United States Navy in the Middle East declined to comment.
On Oct. 24, Iran’s formidable paramilitary Revolutionary Guard commandos took custody of the MV Sothys, a vessel suspected of attempting to transport sanctioned Iranian crude oil to Asia, according to experts. The seizure was watched by US forces, but no action was taken as the vessel went into Iranian seas.
Iran later broadcast dramatic images of the vessel’s arrest on state television the day before the 42nd anniversary of the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
United Against a Nuclear Iran, a New York-based advocacy group that has long been wary of the Islamic Republic, has been keeping an eye on the Sothys. According to the group’s study of satellite photographs, the Sothys received a ship-to-ship transfer of oil in June from an oil tanker dubbed the Oman Pride, according to a letter dated Oct. 11 written to the Vietnam Maritime Administration.
In August, the US Treasury recognized the Oman Pride as part of a smuggling plan to enrich the Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force by transporting Iranian oil. The Treasury said that Iranian oil being exported into East Asia, but did not name a specific nation.
Iran’s capture of the Sothys would be the latest in a series of hijackings and explosions in the Gulf of Oman, which is close to the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf’s small entrance through which a fifth of all traded oil passes.
The US Navy blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine strikes on boats in 2019 that damaged tankers, as well as a tragic drone assault on an Israeli-linked oil ship earlier this year that killed two European crew members. Iranian hijackers seized and briefly hijacked a Panama-flagged asphalt tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates only a few months ago.
Tehran denies responsibility for the assaults, but since then-President Donald Trump pulled the US from the Iran nuclear agreement in 2018 and put crippling sanctions on the nation, a larger shadow war between Iran and the West has played out in the region’s dangerous waterways.