Posted on July 19, 2019 by Ilias Kiritsis
According to the Iranian state media, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has seized the Panama-flagged Oil Products Tanker, MT Riah.
Iran seized the vessel on Sunday, as the vessel was transiting near Qeshm Island, which has an active IRGC base on it.
According to the IRGC, they initially responded to the vessel’s distress call in an effort to aid the ship, but upon conducting a search, discovered that it was involved in an oil smuggling operation.
“A foreign vessel smuggling 1m litres of fuel in the Larak Island of the Persian Gulf has been seized. The vessel that Iran towed to its waters after receiving a distress call was later seized with the order from the court as we found out that it was smuggling fuel,” said the statement on the Iranian state TV.
The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif downplayed the incident while speaking to a group of reporters in New York, “It’s not a tanker. It’s a small ship carrying a million litres, not a million barrels, of oil. We do it every other day. These are people who are smuggling our fuel. This is one of the things that we do in the Persian Gulf, because of the heavy subsidies that we provide for our own fuel products.”
Initially, stories surfaced that the vessel was owned by the UAE, but the Emirates have gone on record to state that the ship was “neither owned nor operated by the UAE. It does not carry Emirati personnel, and did not emit a distress call.”
There were 12 crew members on board the MT Riah at the time of the seizure. There is limited information as to their current status at the time of writing.
Image Courtesy of Marine Traffic