Iran seizes ‘foreign tanker’
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said yesterday they had detained a “foreign tanker” and its 12 crew for allegedly smuggling fuel, the latest incident in a tense standoff in the Gulf. The announcement came after Tehran said it had come to the aid of a foreign tanker after receiving a distress call, but made no mention of the vessel being seized.
The Guards did not confirm whether the vessel they had detained Sunday in the highly sensitive Strait of Hormuz was the same ship as that mentioned Tuesday by the foreign ministry. “With a capacity of two million barrels and 12 foreign crew on board, the vessel was en route to deliver contraband fuel received from Iranian boats to foreign ships in farther regions when it was intercepted,” the force’s Sepahnews website said.
The ship was seized south of the Iranian island of Larak, the Guards said, without detailing its name or provenance. On Thursday, Iranian television broadcast footage appearing to show patrol boats of a kind used by the Guards, circling a tanker marked “Riah” and “Panama”.
The video also included shots apparently taken from onboard the tanker. Oil shipping monitor TankerTrackers reported that the Panamanian-flagged tanker Riah, used in the Strait of Hormuz “for fuelling other vessels”, had crossed into Iranian waters on Sunday. It said the tanker’s automatic identification system had then stopped sending signals. Officials have said Iran had come to the rescue of an ailing tanker on Sunday.
“Iranian forces approached it and using a tugboat brought it into Iranian waters for necessary repairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. The incident is the latest of a series of events that have raised fears of a regional conflict involving the US and its Gulf allies.