The tanker was allegedly smuggling one million litres of fuel in the Larak Island of the Persian Gulf
Iran has seized a foreign tanker it claims was smuggling fuel in the Gulf.
The country’s state TV is reporting that Revolutionary Guard forces intercepted the ship with 12 crew on board on Sunday.
“A foreign vessel smuggling one million litres of fuel in the Larak Island of the Persian Gulf has been seized,” the station said today.
The guards added that the impounded vessel – which Iranian authorities have not yet named – was the same one it towed on Sunday after it sent a distress call.
In a statement quoted by state TV, they said: “The vessel that Iran towed to its waters after receiving a distress call, was later seized with the order from the court as we found out that it was smuggling fuel.”
The guards said they had not seized any other ship in the Gulf.
It comes as tensions mount between the US and Iran over a nuclear deal involving Tehran and world powers.
The UK Foreign Office is now seeking further information and urging the Iranian authorities to de-escalate tensions.
A government spokeswoman said: “We’re seeking further information following reports of a tanker seized in the Gulf. We continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.
“We are continuously monitoring the security situation there and are committed to maintaining freedom of navigation, in accordance with international law.”
Last week, an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates disappeared off trackers in Iranian national waters.
The crew of the vessel have not contacted their base in the UAE since July 13, according to local media.
The ship disappeared from radars while sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.
Abbas Mousavi, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, previously said the tanker had “been directed toward Iranian waters” and is being repaired at an Iranian harbour.
Meanwhile, the area where the tanker was seized – Larak Island – is understood to be used as a waiting place for empty Iranian tankers before they receive orders.
They then sail to a port in Iran to pick up crude oil or gas condensates.
Attacks on oil tankers, as well as Iran reportedly shooting down a US military surveillance drone, has fuelled fears of an armed conflict breaking out.
The attacks have unsettled crucial shipping lanes that link Middle Eastern oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond.
Iran denies involvement, but has threatened to respond robustly to US sanctions that have followed President Donald Trump’s abandonment of a major 2015 treaty, in which Iran agreed to restrict nuclear work in return for the lifting of sanctions.
The US has beefed up its military presence and is asking allies to help protect the strategic waters off Iran and Yemen.
The US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, says Gulf Arab states have stepped up patrols.