Iran has seized a foreign tanker it says was smuggling fuel in the Gulf. The vessel, which state TV claimed was smuggling fuel to foreign customers, was intercepted south of Iran’s Larak Island in the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Sunday and its 12 crew members arrested.
The seized vessel – an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait – drifted off into Iranian waters and stopped transmitting its location over two days ago.
US officials have expressed suspicion that the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah had been seized in Iranian territorial waters.
Iran said it responded to a distress call from the Riah, based in the UAE, and came to its rescue. But no other nation has reported receiving a distress call from the Riah, which was seen being escorted by Iranian naval vessels after the transponder that automatically reports its location was switched off on Saturday.
The tracking report of the Panamanian ship MT Riah from MarineTraffic.com showed the vessel began its journey near a port off the coast of Dubai in the UAE on July 5.
It was then tracked near the coast of Ras al-Khaimah before changing course and travelling north towards Iranian waters, after which it stopped transmitting its signal on Sunday at about 4.30am local time.