Iran Seizes Another Foreign Vessel for Fuel Smuggling

Tasnim photo of a fuel smuggling OSV
Courtesy Tasnim / IRGC / CC BY SA 4.0

Published Apr 19, 2023 9:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has seized another foreign vessel for alleged fuel smuggling, the latest in a string of interdictions aimed at preventing abuse of the nation's generous fuel subsidy scheme. 

The vessel was carring about 400,000 gallons of diesel fuel, an IRGC representative told semi-official Tasnim News, and was headed for another Persian Gulf nation. The ship was seized and the fuel was redelivered to a government-operated oil company in Bushehr.

10 people were arrested aboard the ship, according to Mehdi Mehrangiz, the chief justice of Bushehr Province. The authorities did not disclose the vessel name, flag, ownership or crew nationality.

"We are at the peak of preparation to fight against fuel smuggling and we will deal strongly with those who put the country's economy under its influence," an IRGC spokesman told Tasnim. 

Fuel smuggling is rampant in Iran, driven by the high profitability of buying heavily-subsidized fuel within the country and smuggling it to neighboring states, where it can be sold nearer to market price. The collapse of the value of the Iranian rial over the past four years has widened the opportunity for profit. 

Most of the fuel smuggling occurs via tanker trucks and small vehicles crossing Iran's land borders, but regular interdictions at sea indicate a strong maritime component as well. The volumes involved are substantial: small foreign-flagged product tankers have been seized with millions of gallons of diesel on board. 

In December, the IRGC seized a vessel carrying 90,000 gallons of diesel off Qeshm, and in October, it captured another ship with a consignment of three million gallons - a near-record quantity.