ABU DHABI // Fishermen and sailors were warned to avoid encroaching on Iranian waters as Tehran’s navy takes increasingly aggressive action against border incursions.
Owners of trawlers and other boats have been told their vessels will be impounded and their crews held in detention rather than warned. The Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi issued the alert and said crews could expect “arrest or their lives endangered”.
“The Iranian navy is checking and apprehending all vessels illegally entering Iranian territorial waters and vessels that trespass into Iranian waters will now not be pushed back, but impounded,” a circular read.
Last month, the Indian external affairs ministry said Iran was holding 22 Indian fishermen, the most recent of whom was arrested in January. Emirati and Indian-crewed boats have been seized in the past.
“There have been Indian nationals who have entered into Iranian waters from the UAE side, and from other countries, and been detained,” said Dinesh Kumar, first secretary at the Indian embassy.
“Most of time incidents such as these are by mistake, sometimes due to a lack of accurate communications data.
“Sometimes crews are confused as to where they are, and assume that they are still in their own territory, whereas they are in fact in another country’s waters,” Mr Kumar said.
In November 2013, four Emirati fishermen and five Asian crewmen were detained by authorities after sailing into Iranian territorial waters. They were released.
Another 15 Indian fishermen based in Bahrain were arrested in October last year but released in April, India’s ministry said.
At the time of their arrest, the crew were on their way from Bahrain to Sharjah.
In November, Iranian coastguards arrested 10 Pakistani fishermen while they were fishing in the Arabian Sea near the Jiwani area of Makran.
Among the most high-profile flashpoints was in Janaury last year, when 10 US sailors were captured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and paraded on video.
The two navy craft went missing while crossing from Kuwait to Bahrain and the Pentagon later said they entered Iranian waters because of technical difficulties.
They were later released.
Iran has seldom commented on boat seizures, but said at the time that the incident was unintentional.
“We decided to release them after conducting a technical investigation and consultations with our national security officials, and also after establishing that their trespassing into the waters of the Islamic republic was unintentional and also receiving apology from them,” Fars news agency reported at the time.
In 2007, Iran captured 15 British royal navy sailors and marines near Iraq and held them for almost two weeks in a standoff that drew global attention.