Iran seeks clarification from Indonesia on seizure of its tanker

Iran’s foreign ministry says it has sought more information from Indonesia on its tanker, which has been accused of illegal transfer of oil.

Panamanian-flagged MT Frea, left, and Iranian-flagged MT Horse tankers are seen anchored in Pontianak waters off Borneo island, Indonesia on Sunday [Indonesian Maritime Security Agency via AP]

Tehran, Iran – Iran requested more information from the Indonesian government on Monday on the seizure of one of its fuel tankers accused of illegally transferring oil.

Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran had heard “contradictory” details about the seizure of its MT Horse vessel on Sunday and is seeking clarification from Jakarta.

“But this is a technical issue and this kind of thing has been known to happen in shipping,” he told reporters during a press conference in the capital, Tehran.

Khatibzadeh said the Ports and Maritime Organisation of Iran and the country’s embassy in Indonesia are following up on the issue and further information will be announced when they become clear.

The Indonesian coast guard seized the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and Panamanian-flagged MT Freya in its waters over suspected illegal transport of oil.

It said the vessels had concealed their identity by not showing their flags, had turned off their transponders, and did not respond to a radio call.

Under the radar

The tanker seizure comes weeks after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp seized a South Korean tanker in its waters for “environmental pollution”.

Iran has rejected claims the seizure of the South Korean vessel was over an estimated $7bn worth of Iranian funds frozen by Seoul, saying the issue is “technical” in nature.

Iran, which is under harsh United States sanctions that mainly target its oil exports, has been said to conduct oil sales under the radar by disabling tracking systems.

Last year, Iran had used the MT Horse to send 2.1 million barrels of condensates to fellow US-sanctioned Venezuela.

Earlier this week, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said “Iran’s oil exports and its access to oil money have significantly increased” without elaborating.

His remarks came days after Joe Biden was sworn in as the new president of the US.

Biden has expressed an interest in bringing his country back into a 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers which curbed Iran’s nuclear activity in return for sanctions relief. His predecessor Donald Trump had pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018.

Source: Al Jazeera