Friday, January 8, 2021

There May Be More to Seizure of a Tanker Than Alleged Environmental Pollution

A Double Assassination and Billions of Dollars to Say the Least
Shipping News Feature

PERSIAN GULF – The seizure of a South Korean owned tanker off the coast of Oman on Monday continues to concern and frustrate a variety of stakeholders. When military forces reportedly from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard boarded the 17,500 dwt Hankuk Chemi they apparently issued just a few minutes warning.

The incident is a dream for conspiracy theorists, military observers and maritime analysts alike, with the reason given for the seizure by Iranian authorities as the pollution by the ship of the waters of the Strait of Hormuz. Others have pointed out the incident date ties exactly to one year since the assassination of General Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, by an American drone strike.

In addition to this the US has been flying bombers over the region of late and 24 hours before the seizure President Trump ordered the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to remain on station in the area when she was otherwise due to return home. One other powerful argument being pursued is the fact that South Korea is sitting on $7 billion of Iranian funds.

Now the Iraqis have issued an arrest warrant for outgoing President Donald Trump in connection with the killing of both Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a controversial political figure, exactly as the Iranians did last June with regard to the same attack

The seizure of the tanker prompted South Korea to send the 4,400 tonne Choi Yong, a destroyer with a complement of around 300, many of whom are members of the highly professional Cheonghae special forces unit, one which boasts a successful record of both killing pirates and rescuing hostages.

The destroyer, despite US requests, is not part of the international coalition given over to protecting shipping in the region, but instead tasked as specifically looking out for South Korean interests in the Indian Ocean from Somalia to the Gulfs of Oman and Persia and off the Yemeni coast, all areas where piracy remains a concern.

As for the Hankuk Chemi, owned by DM Shipping of Busan and originally headed from Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to the UAE state of Fujairah, she carries a mixed nationality crew of Vietnamese, Indonesian and Myanmar citizens plus five South Koreans, all reportedly well according to the Iranians.

So what is the real reason for this situation? No evidence of pollution has been released as yet but immediately after the facts became known Iranian media began speaking of the $7 billon seized two years ago, supposedly at the instigation of the US. What is certain is that the Middle East remains as dangerous a place as ever as we see a new year arrive.

Photo: The Hankuk Chemi under escort. Image courtesy of the Tasnim News Agency.