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Iran seizes two vessels in oil smuggling probe

Iran seizes two vessels in oil smuggling probe
Adis Ajdin September 15, 2023

Iranian forces have detained two ships in the Persian Gulf and arrested their crew for allegedly carrying smuggled oil.

The Iranian state news agency Irna said that the Revolutionary Guards Navy seized two vessels flying the flags of Panama and Tanzania, accusing them of smuggling over 1.5m litres of fuel.

Local media reported, citing deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s third naval zone, Admiral Mohammad Sharif Shirali, that the ships named Steven and Crown have been escorted to the port of Mahshahr and their crew handed over to judicial authorities.

Maritime security consultancy Ambrey said in a note on Friday that an anchor handling tug supply (AHTS) vessel was detained carrying fuel hoses, pumping equipment, and lubricant drums on its deck and linked it to a type built in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

In a separate note, Ambrey said that it identified a small Panama-flagged products tanker anchored south of Bandar-e Emam Khomeini, not in the vicinity of any terminal. The vessel had moved into the area on September 4 and had not called at any port.

“Prior to her transit through Iranian territorial waters into Bandar-e Emam Khomeini, the vessel was ‘dark’. Her AIS transmissions stopped on August 31 offshore northern Saudi Arabia, and only resumed on September 4,” Ambrey said.

In recent years, Iranian authorities have captured foreign-flagged vessels in the Persian Gulf for alleged fuel smuggling or violations of maritime regulations. In recent weeks, the US military has increased its presence in the Gulf, accusing Iran of capturing or attempting to seize vessels. A chemical tanker was seized in July on suspicion of oil smuggling, just one day after Iran attempted to detain two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.