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IRGC Seizes Oil Tanker in Persian Gulf

-- Iran's state TV English-language channel has released video of a "Riah" ship seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces accused of smuggling fuel out of the country.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) says its forces have detained a “foreign” oil tanker carrying 6000 barrels of crude oil in the Persian Gulf south of Larak Island.

Iran has not yet disclosed the nationality of the ship it has detained.

Larak Island
Larak Island

Meanwhile, the IRGC on Thursday July 18 denied having detained any other oil tanker during recent days, probably referring to reports that said Iran had seized an oil tanker on Tuesday.

A few indications, including the number of crew members and the timing of the ship’s detention may indicate it is the same tanker that IRGC claimed earlier it had towed to Iran’s Qeshm Island.

Tanker tracking companies and monitoring agencies had said on Monday that the vessel was first taken to an IRGC base after being towed into Iranian waters.

The ship had disappeared from radars while sailing through the Strait of Hormuz on July 13. Monitoring agencies said they had last traced the oil tanker while it was sailing toward Iranian waters. Monitoring agencies say the ship was not observed turning its GPS off in the past.

Before the IRGC statement, Sky News had reported that IRGC has seized an oil tanker and detained its 12 crew members.

The IRGC naval force says the ship was smuggling oil and has been detained in coordination with the Iranian Judiciary.

On Tuesday, four days after the mysterious disappearance of an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, IRGC announced it had towed the ship to an Iranian island for repairs. However, surprisingly, the crew have not contacted their base in the UAE.

Abbas Mousavi, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, said on Tuesday an oil tanker that had disappeared from radars Saturday night “has been directed toward Iranian waters” and is being repaired at an Iranian harbor.

Reports on July 16 said the oil tanker Riah was probably detained by the IRGC and was being held at an IRGC base at Iran’s Qeshm Island.

The crew of the vessel have not contacted their base in the United Arab Emirates since July 13.

A U.S. official told reporters on July 16 that the tanker may have been detained by Iran. One of the reasons for speculation was that, on the same day, Iranian Supreme Leader AyatollahAli Khamenei had warned that Iran would retaliate for the detention of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar.

Hardline MP Javad Karimi Ghodousi tweeted on Thursday suggesting that “If diplomats cannot do anything, we should start our retaliatory measure before the British can know about it.”

After Iran's admission to holding the tanker the U.S. State Department has called on Iran to release the tanker.

"Iran must cease this illicit activity and release the reportedly seized crew and vessel immediately," wrote State Department in an email to reporters.

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issued a statement saying that it was "small tanker."

Infographic: Strait Of Hormuz Shipping Lanes
Infographic: Strait Of Hormuz Shipping Lanes