Iran says it seized a new vessel for diesel smuggling

Iran’s fuel is among the world’s cheapest because of heavy subsidies and the sharp depreciation of its currency.

oil tanker
The reported seizure comes amid rising Gulf tensions following attacks on Saudi oil installations [File: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters]

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has reportedly seized a vessel near the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly smuggling diesel fuel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

State television broadcast footage on Monday from the deck of a trawler-sized ship with open hatches showing tanks full of what appeared to be fuel. News reports said 250,000 litres (66,000 gallons) of diesel was on board.

According to Iranian military official Brigadier General Ali Ozmayi, all 11 crew members were arrested. He didn’t provide any details regarding where the ship was from or the nationality of those in custody.

It was the second such seizure this month after a boat suspected of smuggling fuel was detained and its 12 Filipino crew members arrested in the Strait of Hormuz on September 7.

Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices because of heavy subsidies and the fall of its currency, has been fighting rampant smuggling to neighbouring countries.

The latest seizure coincided with raised regional tensions following a weekend attack on a major oil installation in Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s longtime regional foe.

Tensions at sea

In July, Iran seized a British oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged maritime law violations, two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar and accused it of taking oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

Iran’s Adrian Darya 1, formerly Grace 1, was released last month. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday the British-flagged Steno Impero oil tanker will be released soon.

Capturing fuel tankers in the Gulf has taken centre stage in recent months amid escalating tensions between Iran and the United States.

The crisis began last year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal brokered between Iran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies