Iran Seizes Portuguese-Flagged Container Ship Amid Escalating Tensions with Israel

Iran Seizes Portuguese-Flagged Container Ship

Dubai: In a bold move that has escalated tensions in the Middle East, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran commandeered the Portuguese-flagged container ship MSC Aries near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. This action comes on the heels of an alleged Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus, Syria, earlier this month, which has intensified the standoff between the two nations.

The vessel, associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime and part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, was en route to Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port with an expected arrival on the night of April 15. The MSC Aries had last been spotted off the coast of Dubai, heading towards the Strait of Hormuz, and had deactivated its tracking system—a common practice for Israeli-affiliated ships in the region to avoid detection.

A video obtained by The Associated Press captured the dramatic scene as IRGC commandos descended onto the ship from a helicopter. The raid, confirmed by Iranian authorities, was part of a “heliborne operation” that resulted in the vessel being redirected towards Iranian territorial waters, as reported by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations initially reported the seizure, stating that the vessel was taken by “regional authorities” in the Gulf of Oman, off Fujairah—an Emirati port city known as a critical hub for oil cargo in the region.

In the video, tension aboard the MSC Aries is palpable, with a crew member instructing others to remain inside and proceed to the ship’s bridge while more commandos rappelled onto the deck. One commando is seen providing potential cover fire, highlighting the seriousness of the operation.

Israel has responded sternly to the seizure, warning of “consequences” for Iran’s decision to escalate the situation. Military spokesman Daniel Hagari conveyed Israel’s stance, indicating that Iran would bear the repercussions of further escalation.

The incident has heightened the already strained relations between Iran and Western nations, particularly as the broader West Asian region grapples with the aftermath of Israel’s six-month conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Gulf of Oman’s proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, a vital chokepoint for global oil trade, underscores the significance of this latest development in the ongoing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.