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Iran Seizes Tugboat Alleging Smuggling Fuel

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By The Maritime Executive 2019-09-08 18:36:16

Iran seized a tugboat suspected of smuggling fuel on Saturday and detained her 12 Filipino crew.

Details of the vessel are yet to be released, but she is said to be carrying nearly 284,000 liters of diesel. 

Fuel-smuggling is a rampant problem in Iran. Thanks to heavy government subsidies, gasoline is extraordinarily cheap on the Iranian domestic market - less than one dollar per gallon - creating a profitable opportunity for illegal smuggling networks. Most fuel smuggling occurs via tanker trucks and small vehicles crossing Iran's land borders, and the destination markets are primarily neighboring countries. However, large-scale busts at sea have occurred.  

The Philippine government is monitoring the condition of the 12 Filipino seafarers, with Philippine Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo Santos saying Iranian authorities have informed him that an investigation is ongoing. The vessel is docked at Bandar Abbas port after being intercepted close to Sirik County in the Strait of Hormuz.

The move continues tensions in the region after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Riah on July 15, the Stena Impero on July 19 and another unknown vessel on July 31.

Meanwhile the tanker, newly renamed from Grace 1 to Adrian Darya 1 after being seized by the U.K. on July 4 and detained in Malta for allegedly trying to break anti-Iranian sanctions, has reportedly offloaded and sold her cargo. The vessel sailed under the Iranian flag on August 15 with Iran saying she would not sail to Syria. However, satellite imagery indicates Syria was the likely destination for the cargo. An Iranian spokesman has said that the delivery was made to “the Mediterranean coast.”

Iran's foreign ministry has announced that the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero is being prepared for release. The ship was detained for allegedly breaching maritime law in what many saw as a retaliatory move after the seizure of the Grace 1.