Iran Seizes 'Illegal' Oil Tanker in Gulf

Semi-official news agency said that the ship had 1 million liters of illegal oil on board in area rife with fuel smuggling

File photo: Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, which was seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, leaves Iran's Bandar Abbas port, Iran September 27, 2019.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard has seized a foreign tanker in the Gulf with illegal oil on board, the country's semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday.

The ship had 1 million liters of illegal oil on board and was seized on Sunday south of Larak Island, Fars reported, citing the elite government agency's press office.

The ship's 12 foreign crew members had been intending to transfer the oil to foreign tankers but this was prevented by the Revolutionary Guard's intervention, the Fars report said.

The nationality of the ship and its crew was not clear. It has been handed over to local judicial authorities.

Many vessels smuggle oil to Arab states illegally through the Gulf. Although some of them are caught by the Iranian coastguard or the Revolutionary Guard, many still get through.

According to Iran, this is organized crime and it is therefore difficult to catch those responsible.

The Gulf has also been at the center of a smouldering dispute between Iran and several western states, especially the United States.

There have been several incidents, especially in the Strait of Hormuz, which lies between the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It is one of the most important shipping routes worldwide. Almost a third of global oil exports are shipped through this strait.

The U.S. has blamed Iran for various attacks on merchant ships in the area. Iran denies this vehemently.