Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on July 31, the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency reported, compounding already deep concerns about the safety of shipping in a region crucial to oil exports.
The vessel -- the third foreign ship seized by the guards in the Gulf since July 14 -- is suspected of smuggling a large volume of fuel, ISNA reported, without giving any details about the flag or nationality of the ship or its operator. The agency cited the public affairs office of the IRGC’s second naval division.
The ship was carrying 700,000 liters of smuggled fuel when it was seized near Farsi Island in the western part of the Persian Gulf, off Iran’s southwestern coast near the Iraq border, ISNA reported, citing the IRGC’s public affairs office. That’s about 400 miles (640 kilometers) from the Strait of Hormuz, which has been at the center of Iran’s standoff with the West in recent weeks.
Tensions have flared in the strait as Iran resists US sanctions that are crippling its all-important oil exports and lashes out after the July 4 seizure of one of its ships near Gibraltar. Iran impounded a British tanker, the Stena Impero, in the passageway 15 days later and continues to hold it.
Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, accounts for about a third of the world’s seaborne oil flows.
The announcement of the ship’s seizure coincides with a joint meeting between the Iranian and Qatari coast guards in Tehran aimed at improving and developing maritime cooperation between the Gulf neighbors, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported earlier Sunday. That gathering follows a rare meeting between the coast guards of Iran and the UAE last week.