Iran’s state TV English-language channel has posted a video of a seized tanker that reportedly “smuggled” fuel out of the country, in the Persian Gulf.
The Press TV report showed the ship’s registration number on its bridge, matching that of the MT Riah, a UAE-based vessel, which, according to vessel location tracking websites, stopped transmitting signals on its location in the early hours of 14 July.
Iranian media reported earlier in the day that a tanker was seized with a crew of 12 aboard for smuggling fuel from the Iranian side to foreign customers and was intercepted south of Iran’s Larak Island in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. It did not specify the vessel number or identify the nationalities of the crew onboard.
Earlier, an unnamed US defense official told The Associated Press that America “has suspicions” that Iran seized the Panamian-flagged MT Riah oil tanker based in the UAE, however, the Emirates shortly busted claims that the ship was owned or used by the country.
The 190-foot MT Riah, carrying the flag of Panama, was last mapped in the vicinity of Iran, near the island of Qeshm, which hosts a local Revolutionary Guard base, according to Haaretz.
Oil tankers have been lately targeted in a number of sabotage attacks in the area. Four tankers in the Gulf of Oman, belonging to Norway, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, were left crippled in a series of explosions that damaged their hulls in May 2019.
While an investigation by the UAE has failed to determine who masterminded the “sabotage”, the US has accused Iran of it, with the latter flatly denying the claims. Iran has denounced alleged false-flag operations aimed against it, warning that they lead to instability in the region.
Along with oil tanker sabotages, the Persian Gulf region became central in a standoff over Iran’s embattled nuclear deal with world powers, with one of the Iranian tankers being seized in early July by British Marines in Gibraltar. The Iranian supertanker Grace 1 was stopped on suspicions that the vessel was transferring crude oil to Syria from Iran in violation of EU sanctions, as Iran stepped up efforts to push for better conditions under the 2015 deal that the US unilaterally pulled from in May 2018.