IRAN has reportedly seized a UAE oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz hours after the US accused Tehran of a shocking oil plant attack in Saudia Arabia.
The Islamic republic’s hardline Revolutionary Guard is said to have detained the ship and its crew of 11 under the pretext of smuggling diesel.
According to unconfirmed reports for the Fars news agency, the ship was carrying 250,000 litres of fuel.
If confirmed, the seizure would represent the latest move by Iran to hamper navigation in the waterway, one of the most vital routes for global energy supplies.
The country also detained another “smuggler” vessel in July – initially reported as an oil tanker with a carrying capacity of one million barrels of fuel.
Earlier Washington issued satellite images and cited intelligence to back its claim that Iran was behind the attacks on major Saudi oil facilities.
Iran denies involvement in Saturday’s air attacks, which were later claimed by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen.
However, unnamed US officials speaking to the international media say the direction and extent of the attacks cast doubt on Houthi involvement.
The incident has cut global oil supplies by five per cent and fuel prices have already soared by 20 per cent.
Experts claim the attacks are the “equivalent of 9/11” to the global oil industry, with Brit motorists hammered at the petrol pump with an increase of 5p per litre.
The attacks on two plants at the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry knocked out more than half of Saudi crude output.
And ss markets reopened today for the first time since the attacks, oil prices rose as much as 20 per cent to above $71.00 (£57) a barrel — the biggest percentage spike in almost three decades.
The last time prices jumped anywhere this high was the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Saul Kavonic, an energy analyst at Credit Suisse Group, said: “We have never seen a supply disruption and price response like this in the oil market.
“Political risk premium are now back on the oil market agenda.”
Andrew Lipow, of consultants Lipow Oil Associates, predicted a 5p rise per litre of petrol and added: “This is a big deal.”
State-run oil giant Saudi Aramco said the strikes would spark a drop in output of 5.7million barrels per day or more than five per cent of global crude supply.
An upped-priced $10(£8) barrel could mean the cost at petrol pumps would rise to between 3 and 4p per litre.