Country Risk

Saudi-led coalition says Iran operating command ship in Red Sea

28 September 2018

A photograph taken from a Saudi-led coalition dossier released in November 2017 shows fast boats on the deck of the Iranian cargo ship. Source: Joint Forces Command of the Arab Coalition

The Saudi-led coalition has publicly identified an Iranian cargo ship that is loitering in the Red Sea as a military threat for the first time: a move that could be a precursor to an attempt to board the vessel.

In his regular briefing on 24 September, coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said the Iranian-flagged general cargo ship Saviz is used exclusively for military purposes, including to provide command and control and to transfer weapons to other vessels, three of which he identified, but none of their names correspond with internationally registered commercial vessels.

Saviz was removed from a US list of sanctioned Iranian commercial vessels in 2016. IHS Maritime data shows it left the Iranian port of Shahid Rajaee in December that year for the Red Sea, where it has been nearly stationary in international waters between Eritrea and Yemen ever since.

A dossier released by the Saudi-led coalition in November 2017 identified Saviz as a vessel that is suspected of smuggling arms to the Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah (the Houthis) and included a photograph showing fast boats on its deck.

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