November 28, 2020

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Panama-Flagged Vessel Reportedly Seized by Iran For Alleged Fuel Smuggling

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have intercepted a Panamanian-flagged vessel found to be carrying more than 300,000 liters (79,251 gallons) of smuggled fuel, Fars news agency reported on Friday.

The report did not specify the nationality of the crew members, only detailing there were 10 people on board.

Iran, an oil-rich country, has been frequently said to be seizing vessels sailing under different flags and allegedly smuggling fuel, as the Islamic republic is known to carefully police the waters of the Persian Gulf in order to prevent fuel smuggling.

Among the latest incidents, the IRGC reportedly captured a vessel with 16 Malaysian crew members on board in December 2019, but it was unclear which flag it had been sailing under.

In July 2019, Tehran seized British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, saying that it had ignored safety regulations, turned off its communications equipment and rammed into an Iranian fishing vessel. The seizure resulted in a diplomatic squabble with London, as both countries accused each other of “piracy” due to the UK earlier capturing an Iranian vessel in Gibraltar. Eventually, both vessels were released.

Tensions in the Gulf region have been high lately due to the United States tightening sanctions against Iran, with Washington putting the blame on Tehran for capturing several tankers in the Gulf in May and June of 2019 – something that the Islamic Republic denied.

According to Iranian media assessments, cited by Reuters, an estimated 10 million litres of fuel are smuggled per day

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