Middle East Crisis:  Iran Rebuffs International Calls To Release seized MSC Ship

By Stephen Ubanna, with agency reports

In spite of pressure on the Iran Government by the International Community to release the MSC, seized ship seized from the international waters, the Middle country appears to have rebuff them.

Notwithstanding the hardline position taken by the Iranian Government not to release the Israel linked ship, operator of the MSC Aries, seized by Iran, on Saturday, April 13, 2024, had said on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, that the 2 Crew members on board the Container ship are safe, noting that discussions with the Iranian Authorities are in progress to secure their earliest release. The Swiss headquartered shipping company had said that they are also working with the Authorities to get the cargo discharged.

Recall that the Somali Pirates had hijacked a Bangladeshi –flagged   Bulk carrier vessel, MV Abdulah, on March 18, 2024, and had received $5 million or $20,000, ransom payout per crew member, to facilitate the release of the vessel and its crewmembers

The tension in the Gulf of Eden, the Red sea, and other international waters, where ocean- going vessels are continuously being threatened by Pirates in the recent time, may have encouraged  the Nigerian Navy, under the close watch of Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla with the support of Dayo Mobereola, led Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, were said to intensify patrol on  the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, to forestall  a repeat of the Somalia and IRNA incident in the region.

 The Iranian Paramilitary RG, which  was said to have carried out the attack  on a Portuguese  -flagged  MSC  Aries, 15,000  TEU, a Container  ship associated   with a London-based Zodiac Maritime Group on Saturday , April 13,  2024, as  it was heading  from Mozambique  to the United Arab Emirate, UAE, about 600 nautical miles  east  of the Somali Capital.

 The Geneva-based MSC which had acknowledged the seizure of the Container ship   had said that there were 25 crew members on board the ship, made up of Indian, Philippine, Pakistan, Russian and Estonian nationals. The Times of Indian had reported   that the MSC cargo ship , which had  17 Asian country of Indian Seafarers on board in the Strait of Hormuz   had been hijacked by  the Iran Paramilitary Revolutionary Guards,  which had the backing of the Iranian Navy, IRNA. The IRNA Authorities, had said that the seized Israel-linked ‘’Container ship had violated the country’s maritime laws’’.  

Gilon, Israeli Ambassador to India , describes IRG, hijackers of MSC Aries as Pirates

. Naor Gilon, Israeli Ambassador to India, who could not take it from the Iran Paramilitary Revolutionary Guards had said that the Israel-linked cargo ship, MSC Aries that was seized by Iran Government with 17 Indian nationals on board was’’ a clear piracy and should not be allowed by the International Maritime Organization, IMO, a maritime agency of the United Nations, UN, under the close watch of   Arsenio Dominguez.

  An aggrieved Israeli Ambassador had said that the cargo ship in question   which was a Portuguese – Flagged owned by Zodiac Maritime, was based in the United Kingdom, UK.  Given an insider information, he had revealed that the Zodiac Maritime is a division of Zodiac Group   owned by Israeli multi-billionaire business mogul,  Eyal Offer. He had said that the attack on the MSC Aries linked to an Israeli businessman was an attack on Israel, stating that it will‘’ not stand idle to watch attack its ocean- going vessels  and get away with it’, an invitation to war. 

The US Government may have agreed with Israel that the seizure of the Portuguese Flagged and MSC  operated Chartered Container ship was ‘’an act of piracy by Iran and a blatant violation of international law ‘’that should be condemned by the International community to avoid a repeat in future.  ‘’We strongly condemn the Iranian Government seizure of the Portuguese Flagged, British –owned MSC Aries in International waters’’., the Us Government had said.

MSC Container ship hijacked by Iran Revolutionary Guards who rappelled from helicopter to enter the MSC ship

The United States Department of State had said that the Iran Paramilitary Revolutionary Guard could  have successfully attacked the Portuguese Flagged ship because ‘’the Guards had rappelled from a helicopter onto the Israeli affiliated Container ship near the Strait Hormuz and hijacked the vessel’’.     

The US Department of State  had reported that the Iranian Paramilitary Revolutionary Guards attacked the Israeli linked cargo ship  because of Israel military   strike  on the Iranian  Consular building in Syria  that was said to have killed 12 people , including a senior  Guard General   who was said to have once Commanded  the Iran  expeditionary  QUDS Force there. 

The  IRNA, have confirmed that the special Forces unit of the Iran Paramilitary Revolutionary Guard’s  navy  had carried  out  the attack on the Portuguese – flagged MSC Aries and Israeli  cargo linked ship  associated with The UK based Zodiac Maritime, thus  sending a signal to Israel that   the Middle East country is ready for them at the battlefield .

Informed   Maritime sources had confirmed that MSC Aries was last located off Dubai heading toward the Strait of Hormuz on Friday, April 12, 2024. The vessel was said to have switched off its tracking data, which was said to have been a common feature of all Israeli –affiliated ships moving through the Gulf region.

This may have informed why   Katz, Israel, Foreign Affairs minister   has called on the international Community ‘’to list the Iran Paramilitary Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist Organization’’. The Israeli, Foreign Affairs minister  had made it clear that  the Iranian Government supports the Hamas ‘crimes  and is now conducting  a pirate operation  in violation of the international law in the Gulf region.

The British military ‘s UK Maritime  Trade Operations  had told those that cares to listen that  the Israeli linked Container ship was hijacked by  Regional Authorities  , in the Gulf   of Oman  off Emirati  port  city of  Fujairah, to escalate the crisis in the Middle East.

Perhaps, to forestall the escalation of the crisis in the Gulf region, the UK, Government, have called on the Iranian Authorities to take immediate action’’ to facilitate the release of the Israeli cargo ship detained by the country’s Navy.  The UK Authorities had reechoed what the Israel Authorities had said that the Guard to control of the vessel.

It had confirmed that  the ship , owned by Gortal shipping, a Finance Company  associated  with Zodiac Maritime ,  was targeted  for its Israeli  links, to draw out the  multi-billionaire  Eyal  to pay compensation.   The UK Authorities   had said that the  seizure of the cargo ship  MSC Aries  by IRNA  special force of the Naval Guards units   was unacceptable  and a blatant violation of international law.

 The IRNA seizure of the Israeli linked 15,000TEU MSC Aries was said to have come before the Middle East country launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation for the attack   on its Consulate in Syria on April 1, 2024   that was to have killed 12 Revolutionary Guards personnel.  

UK  Authorities had  declared  that  seizure  of the MSC Aries  and escalating tension between Israel and Iran   and the over six months  of attacks  by IRNA  on ships in the southern Red Sea  and the Gulf Eden from Houthi  militia  in Yemen  with the backing of Iran  resulting  in the worldwide scale  rerouting of  ocean-going vessels  via the Cape of Good Hope   would see further to the disruption of global shipping.

The International Chamber of Shipping, ICS, described as a principal International Trade Association for Merchant ship owners and operators, representing all sectors and Trades and over 80% of the world’s merchant fleet had condemned the IRNA action. It was said to have also joined Israel, UK and  the US,  to declare that ‘’it is  a direct contravention  of international Law   and an assault  on  the fundamental  principle of the freedom of navigation for the Iranian Government  to  have seized  MSC Aries Vessel on international voyage’’.

The Chamber was emphatic that the Iran seizure of the MSC Aries was a flagrant breach of international Law, urging the Iranian Government ‘’to release the ship as a matter of urgency’’.  Appealing to ships transiting  the Gulf region  to always    conduct a  thorough threat assessment  and liaise  closely with  military forces  , it stated that’’ this is the only sure way   ‘’to ensure that cargo ships  will be fully  protected  against possible  attacks by Pirates  and aggression by Iranian  special forces’’.

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