Portuguese American Journal

Portugal: Ship sailing under Portuguese flag seized by Iranian forces – Persian Gulf

A cargo ship linked to Israel, sailing under a Portuguese flag through the Persian Gulf, was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on Saturday.

The ship, operated by the international shipping company Zodiac Maritime, which is managed by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer, identified as the “MCS Aries” was en route to India when Iranian forces descending from helicopter took control.

According to Israeli media reports, the vessel, with 25 crew members on board, was directed to Iranian territorial waters.

The Portuguese government has confirmed that there are no Portuguese crew members on board and stated that it is communicating with Iranian authorities to address the situation. The crew is said to be comprised of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian, and Estonian nationals.

Following the incident, on Saturday Iranian drones struck multiple targets inside Israel, escalating tensions in the region. This development came after Israel struck the Iranian consulate in Damascus, the capital of Syria, resulting in the deaths of seven high-ranking Iranian officials.

President Joe Biden, who is assessing the situation, warned Tehran on Friday not to escalate tensions. Meanwhile, European leaders also cautioned against further escalation in the region.

In a statement, the White House said that Iran must release the Portuguese-flagged ship “immediately.”

“Seizing a civilian vessel without provocation is a blatant violation of international law, and an act of piracy by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.

Portugal is calling for the immediate release of both the ship and its crew while the Portuguese ambassador to Tehran is scheduled to meet with Iran’s chief diplomat on Sunday to discuss the incident.

Since 2019, Iranian forces have carried out a series of ship seizures in the region. The recent attack comes amid mounting tensions between Iran and Israel.

A “flag of convenience” (FOC) is a business practice in which a merchant ship operator registers a ship in a country other than the owners, and the ship flies the flag of that country, known as the flag state. This practice allows ships to sail without any significant affiliation with that country. It enables ship owners to benefit from more lenient regulations and often lower costs.


*This developing story will be updated

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