Reports come amid raised tensions after weekend attack on major Saudi oil installation
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have seized a vessel in the Gulf for allegedly smuggling 250,000 litres of diesel fuel to the United Arab Emirates, Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA has reported.
“It was detained near Iran’s Greater Tunb island in the Persian Gulf … the crew have been handed over to legal authorities in the southern Hormozgan province,” ISNA said on Monday, without elaborating on the nationalities of the crewmen.
The reported seizure coincided with raised international tensions following a weekend attack on a major oil installation in Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s longtime regional foe. Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement claimed responsibility, while the US has blamed Iran outright for the strike. Tehran has denied the accusation.
Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices owing to heavy subsidies and the fall of its national currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling by land to neighbouring countries and by sea to Gulf Arab states.
Iran stepped up its fight against smuggling fuel this month when its coast guard seized a vessel for allegedly smuggling fuel in the Gulf and detained its 12 Filipino crew members.
In July, Iran seized a British oil tanker near the strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations, two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of taking oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
Iran’s Adrian Darya 1, formerly Grace 1, was released last month. Abbas Mousavi, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, said on Monday that the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker would be released soon.
The latest reported ship seizure by Iran follows a series of incidents involving shipping in and around the Gulf after US sanctions on Iranian oil exports took full effect in May. The incidents coincided with Houthi rebels stepping up attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia.