Iran Seizes Tanker on Allegations of Diesel Oil Smuggling

Iran seized a foreign-flagged tanker on accusations of smuggling (Tasmin News Agency/Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Published Jan 29, 2024 4:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

Iranian commanders are reporting that they have seized another foreign-registered tanker on allegations of fuel smuggling. The seizure is part of an ongoing effort to stop fuel smuggling which is rampant in the region.

During a press briefing on Sunday afternoon, Iranian Commander Heidar Honarian-Mojarrad said the tanker which was only identified as being from “a country in Oceania” was taken into custody 60 miles off the coast of Bandar Bushehr in southern Iran. They are detaining 14 crewmembers which the Commander said were from “two Asian countries.” A picture released on Iranian state media appears to show the name Lavender on the ship but additional details remaiend unclear.

The seizure was undertaken by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps reportedly under a court order. They said they had been tracking the tanker since it refueled as part of an ongoing monitoring of shipping activity. After the vessel departed and was identified, they sought a court order to stop the ship. Searching the tanker, they determined it was loaded with two million liters of diesel fuel which they contend was being smuggled illegally out of Iran.

The crew is being handed over to the judicial authority of Bushehr province. The fuel was confiscated and is being handed over to the National Petroleum Refining and Distribution Company of Bushehr.


Photo released on state media appears to show the nameboard reading Lavender 


Iran over the last year has publicized several seizures of small tankers or vessels transporting fuel. In each case, they alleged the vessel had loaded the fuel illegally and departed Iran. They often allege that it is part of a larger smuggling ring while in some cases it is a financial dispute between the tanker operator and the Iranian fuel company.

A tanker registered in Panama was detained in October 2022 with 21 international crew members aboard. A year later, a court in Iran sentenced the crew to terms ranging from one to five years for their role in the smuggling ring.

Iran has among the cheapest fuel prices in the world due to government subsidies for the state-owned refinery and distribution system. Experts said that this has created robust smuggling operations. Iranian commanders said to combat these efforts they are monitoring the seaports and surrounding waters nonstop and will continue their effort to arrest smugglers.

These smaller-scale actions are not related to the taking of large crude oil tankers as part of political disputes. Iran is currently holding a Greek-owned tanker and 18 crewmembers from the Philippines in retaliation for a U.S. seizure of a cargo of Iranian crude and the tanker company’s cooperation with the U.S. In 2022, Iran also took and held for months two Greek-owned tankers after Greece initially permitted the U.S. to seize another crude oil cargo. They also previously seized a South Korean-owned tanker in an effort to force South Korea to release money held in the country’s banks frozen under U.S. sanctions.