Iran seizes oil tanker and crew in Arabian Gulf

14 crew members were detained by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Islamic Revolutionary Gúard Corps during a ceremony to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the downing of Iran Air flight 655 by the US Navy. AFP
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Iran seized a foreign oil tanker it accused of transporting “smuggled fuel” and detained 14 crew members on Sunday, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the unidentified vessel on Sunday morning, the outlet reported, and claimed it was carrying two million litres of smuggled diesel.

It was seized by court order 96km off the coast of Bandar-e-Bushehr. The crew on board “of Asian origin” were detained.

Tasnim said the ship was from Oceania, without providing any further detail.

It comes just weeks after the navy boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker once at the centre of a dispute between Washington and Tehran.

Iran seized the ship in retaliation for a “violation committed by the Suez Rajan ship … and the theft of Iranian oil by the United States”, the Irna news agency reported.

Global shipping has been disrupted amid attacks by Iran-backed Houthi militants on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have vowed to continue attacks on ships it says are headed for Israel amid the war in Gaza. They have also pledged to attack British and American ships in retaliation for air strikes on Houthi positions.

China has reportedly asked Tehran to help stop the group's attacks on commercial ships passing through the Red Sea, Reuters reported last week.

Companies are now offering double pay to crew amid the crisis, which has resulted in a 42 per cent drop in shipping traffic through the Suez Canal.

In August, ships transiting the Strait of Hormuz were warned against straying into Iranian waters due to the “high risk” of seizure.

Iranian attacks have prompted the US to strengthen its naval presence in the region, deploying its first drone boats in the Strait of Hormuz in April.

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Updated: January 29, 2024, 3:00 PM