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Iran says ‘MSC Aries’ vessel seized for 'violating maritime laws'

April 15, 2024 at 2:18 pm

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani in Tehran, December 20, 2022. [Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

A Portuguese-flagged cargo ship, the “MSC Aries”, was seized by Iran on 13 April for “violating maritime laws”, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday, adding that there was no doubt the vessel was linked to Israel, Reuters reports.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had seized the freighter in the Strait of Hormuz days after Tehran vowed to retaliate for an Israeli strike on its Consulate in Damascus on 1 April. Iran had said it could close the crucial shipping route.

“Iran strives to create a safe shipping environment in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf. The vessel was diverted into Iran’s territorial waters as a result of violating maritime laws and not answering calls made by Iranian authorities,” spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, said.

Iran launched a barrage of missiles and explosive drones late on Saturday in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a retaliatory strike that Tehran said was self-defence after the bombing of the Consulate.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that a Guards helicopter had boarded the “MSC Aries” and taken it into Iranian waters.

MSC, which operates the Aries, confirmed Iran had seized the ship and said it was working “with the relevant authorities” for its safe return and the well-being of its 25 crew.

MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, Zodiac said in a statement, adding that MSC is responsible for all the vessel’s activities. Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman, Eyal Ofer.

Tensions have soared across the Middle East since the start of Israel’s campaign in Gaza in October, with Israel or its ally, the United States, clashing repeatedly with Iranian-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

In response to reports of the seizure of the “MSC Aries”, Israeli Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, accused Iran of piracy and military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said it would “bear consequences for choosing to escalate this situation any further”.

READ: Iranian navy commandos seize Israeli ship in Strait of Hormuz