As Israel-Iran Conflict Heats Up, Iranian Spy Ship Heads for Home

IRNA / Akbar Tavakkoll / RFE

Published Apr 18, 2024 10:12 PM by The Maritime Executive


The Iranian spy ship Behshad has departed the Gulf of Aden and headed for home, ending the vessel's alleged role in the Red Sea maritime security crisis.

Behshad deployed to the Red Sea in 2021, and analysts believe that the ship has served as a staging point and command post for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' operations in Yemen. The vessel is widely suspected of providing targeting information and intelligence to Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have been launching missile and drone attacks on merchant shipping since November. The intensity and location of Houthi attack activity has tracked Behshad's movements in the Gulf of Aden, increasing on her arrival and decreasing on her departure. 

Iran denies that Behshad has had any role in covert military operations, and insists that the ship's operations are purely for anti-piracy missions. 

Behshad's departure from the Yemeni theater of operations coincided with a sharp escalation in hostilities between Israel and Iran. Israeli forces may have killed seven officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in an airstrike in Damascus on April 1, and Iran retaliated by launching 300 drones and missiles at Israeli territory. Almost all failed or were shot down, thanks in part to extensive U.S. assistance, and only one injury was reported. Israel retaliated for this counterattack Thursday night with a strike on an Iranian military facility; Iran claims that the attack did not occur, and that there was no damage.

Meanwhile, Behshad has reached safety in Bandar Abbas, Iran, according to her AIS signal. The ship appears to have evaded the fate of its predecessor, the freighter Saviz, which was damaged in a suspected Israeli attack in the Red Sea in 2021.

First crewmember released from Iranian-held boxship

The government of India has secured the release of an Indian cadet, Ann Tessa Joseph, who was aboard the boxship MSC Aries when Iranian forces captured it on April 13. She told India's NDTV that her crewmates were being treated well in captivity, and that they were allowed to go to the galley for food and water. 

"They didn't have any intention to harm the crew. There were four Keralites, including me. Now 16 Indians are left there," she said. "When they spoke to the consulate yesterday, they were informed that there will be an early release."

India's embassy in Tehran is working to secure the safe return of the rest of the crew, including 16 Indian nationals. The International Transport Workers' Federation has also spoken with the crewmembers, and ITF confirms that they report reasonable treatment under the circumstances.

TankerTrackers.com has located MSC Aries at an anchorage in the Khuran Straits, right next to three hijacked tankers, St. Nikolas, Advantage Sweet and Niovi.