The US Navy has allegedly seized an Iran-bound cargo ship that was carrying material needed to treat coronavirus-infected patients, according to the Islamic country's semi-official news agency. The cargo ship was allegedly seized by US warships near the Chinese port of Qingdao on Wednesday morning.

The ship was carrying material used in manufacturing oxygen concentrators used by patients who have been diagnosed with coronavirus. The shipment's delay is now hampering the manufacturing process, which might delay the treatment of coronavirus-affected patients, said the company that was importing the material.

Unexpected Seizure

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The shipment’s delay is now hampering the manufacturing process, which might delay the treatment of coronavirus-affected patients, said the company that was importing the material Reuters

According to the Fars News Agency, two US warships seized an Iranian cargo ship en route to Iran. The consignment had zeolite needed for manufacturing oxygen concentrators for coronavirus-infected patients. "Only one imported part is used for production of oxygen concentrators, which is zeolite, and we are forced to purchase it from France and import it to the country through several intermediators," said Peyman Bakhshandeh-Nejad, the CEO of Zist Tajhiz Danesh Pouya company in Iran.

The seizing of the cargo ship can now lead to slowing down of manufacturing of oxygen concentrators, which the company said could pose a huge problem given the growing number of coronavirus cases in Iran. Bakhshandeh-Nejad said that the ship's cargo could lead to the production of 4,000 to 5,000 oxygen concentrator systems to help the patients.

Planned Move or Mistake?

US Navy
US warships seized the Iran-bound cargo ship near the Chinese port of Qingdao (Representational photo) Reuters

It is still not know if the cargo ship was mistakenly intercepted and seized by the US Navy or had to do something with US sanctions. Bakhshandeh-Nejad, however, dismissed claims that the U.S. sanctions do not leave impact on Iran's medical and health sectors.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a surge in demand for oxygen concentrators, especially for patients who are not in hospitals but recovering at home. An oxygen concentrator typically concentrates the oxygen from a gas supply (ambient air) by selectively removing nitrogen to supply an oxygen-enriched product gas stream.

A knowledge-based company in Iran had started manufacturing portable oxygen concentrators in April for patients who could use them at home. The company has been manufacturing these oxygen concentrators in three variants — home, central and portable. However, zeolite, which is required in these concentrators, is the only material Iran doesn't have in abundance which it imports from other countries. It is still not known if Iran or the company concerned has made any efforts to get the consignment released.