[Ed. – The online group Tanker Trackers has been reporting earlier worrisome activity in the area, suggesting Iran may be preparing for something. (Note: the private intel firm mentioned below is Dryad Global.) It’s not clear why a Hong Kong-flagged vessel would be seized. There is zero need to speculate that it is anyone other than the IRGCN doing the seizing (the location was close to the Iranian coast), and the IRGC has benefited for years from shell company corporations in Hong Kong. There’s no evident dividend from grabbing a Hong Kong-flagged ship. A situation that bears watching; Iran may want some hostages to extort ransom for.]
Armed men boarded a Hong Kong-flagged tanker ship Tuesday off the coast of Iran near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, holding the ship for a short time before releasing it amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S., authorities said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the seizure, though suspicion fell on Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. Iranian officials and state media did not immediately acknowledge the incident and the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not respond to a request for comment.
The incident comes after a private maritime intelligence firm warned of suspicious incidents in recent days near the strait, through which a fifth of all oil is traded. Oil tankers previously have been a target during the tensions.