The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized a tanker suspected of transporting smuggled fuel.
The vessel was intercepted near Farsi Island where an IRGC naval base is located. According to Fars news agency and State TV, seven crew members were detained when the ship was seized late Wednesday carrying 700,000 litres (185,000 gallons) of allegedly smuggled fuel from Iran. Details on the vessel’s origin and crew’s nationality have not been released.
Iran’s English-language Press TV aired a video that showed how the IRGC stopped the ship and took it under custody. Guard commander Gen. Ramazan Zirahi was quoted by Iran’s State TV saying the ship was seized in Iranian territorial waters and had been transporting diesel fuel.
“This foreign vessel had received the fuel from other ships and was transferring it to Persian Gulf Arab states,” Zirahi said.
The U.S Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, and maritime tracking experts both stated that they cannot confirm the reports yet, due to lack of information on the seized vessel.
Maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global said that, if confirmed, this is likely to be “another relatively lowkey interception designed to signal to the West that Iran maintains the capability and intent to exercise its influence” in the Persian Gulf.
This marks Iran’s third seizure in the past two weeks. Tensions around the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping waterway between Iran and Oman, have escalated in recent months.
The rift between the two nations started last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to pull out from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimpose sanctions on Iran.
Tensions further arose after the US boosted its military presence in the region, blaming Iran for carrying out attacks on vessels plying the Gulf.
Maintaining maritime security in the Persian Gulf is critical to global crude exports.
Petroleum products from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are exported through the strait to countries around the world.