Advantage Sweet oil tanker before being seized by Iran's Navy, Edwin Puthussery (inset) | Photo: AFP, Mathrubhumi
Kochi: Three Malayalees are among the crew members of Advantage Sweet, a US-bound oil tanker, which was seized by the Iranian Navy on Thursday. They have been identified as Kadavanthra native Jismon Joseph (31), Kochi native Edwin Puthussery (26) and a Malappuram native.
The Iranian Navy seized the tanker, which was on its way from Kuwait to the US, after an alleged collision with one of its vessels off the coast of Oman. According to Jismon's relatives, the youth had called them hours ahead of the seizure.
“We were in touch with Edwin till Wednesday evening. We chatted on WhatsApp for a long time,” said Alvin, his brother.
The families of the crew members were informed about the capture of the tanker on Thursday. They were told that the Iranian Navy commandos took complete control of the tanker and no further information was available.
Initially, reports stated that only one Malayali member was present in the vessel. Later, it was confirmed that three Keralites were inside the ship, which has 24 Indian crew members.
Affected families have urged authorities concerned to take needful action for the release of their loved ones.
Footage aired by Iranian state television showed navy commandos dropping down from a helicopter onto the deck of the Advantage Sweet which Tehran said it seized Thursday after an alleged collision with one of its vessels off the coast of Oman.
Past experience shows that crew caught up in similar incidents are in "no danger", the ship's operator, Advantage Tankers told AFP.
The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel was being taken to port by Iran's navy because of an "international dispute", the operator said in a statement.
"Similar experiences show that crew members of vessels taken under such circumstances are in no danger," it said, adding that the company was "in close touch with all the appropriate authorities to obtain the release of the crew and vessel".
Iran said the tanker had crashed into one of its vessels, leaving two Iranian crew members missing and injuring several others. It said it tried to make contact with the tanker to ask it to stop but it did not respond, prompting the seizure.
The US Navy demanded the ship's immediate release, slamming Iran's "continued harassment" in Gulf waters.
The vessel had picked up oil from Kuwait and was chartered by Chevron Corp, an Advantage Tankers spokesperson said. It was bound for Houston, Texas, according to the MarineTraffic tracking website.
Thursday's seizure was the latest incident in the sensitive waters of the Gulf, which carry about a third of the world's seaborne oil.
Such incidents have grown more frequent since 2018 when the US withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and major powers and reimposed crippling sanctions. Marathon efforts to restore the deal have stalled.
The latest seizure came only days after Western governments toughened sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
With AFP inputs