Iran says it seized ‘fuel smuggling’ tanker in Persian Gulf

In the latest move in Middle Eastern waters, the Iranian government said Thursday it’s taken control of a tanker that was “smuggling fuel.”

Patrol boats of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Navy are seen near the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran said it seized an unidentified fuel tanker on Sunday. File Photo by U.S. Navy

State television said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps took 12 crew members on the vessel Sunday. The group did not say to which nation the tanker belonged.

The ship was seized near Larak Island and carried nearly 265,000 gallons of fuel, Iranian officials said. Larak is an Iranian-controlled island in the Strait of Hormuz. The IRGC said it took the ship in a “surprise” operation.

“The [Iranian] naval units in this area will continue to conduct security operations and missions aimed at confronting organized fuel smuggling efforts … decisively and keenly around the clock,” the IRGC said in a statement.

The move is the latest in a string of disruptions of tankers moving through waters in the Middle East. An Iranian oil tanker, the Grace 1, was seized this month by British officials — prompting Tehran to threaten taking a British ship in retaliation.

The British Royal Marines seized the Panama-flagged Grace 1 on suspicion it breached European Union sanctions by attempting to travel to Syria.

Another tanker disappeared in the Strait of Hormuz last weekend when its tracking device was switched off. Wednesday, Tehran said the United Arab Emirates-based Riah vessel — which was also Panamanian-flagged — was towed to Iranian waters for repairs.

ByClyde Hughes