Iran’s IRGC seizes S.Korean tanker over environmental breach

Tehran, Jan 5 : Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) announced that it has seized a South Korean oil tanker in the Gulf over “repeated violations” of environmental protocols.

“The tanker (Hankuk Chemi), departing from the Saudi port of Al-Jubail, was seized when sailing in the Gulf by the Zulfiqar fleet in the first Naval District of the IRGC for repeated violations of marine environmental laws,” Xinhua news agency quoted the IRGC as saying in a statement following the seizure on Monday.

It was en route to the United Arab Emirates.

The ship was carrying 7,200 tonnes of chemicals derived from petroleum and 20 crewmembers — five South Koreans, 11 Myanmarese, two Indonesians and two Vietnamese, according to the statement.

After being seized, the vessel was docked at the port of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran, and the case will be handed over to local judicial authorities for legal process, the IRGC further said.

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According to the statement, the vessel was seized at the request of the Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization, by order of the Prosecutor’s Office of Iran’s Hormozgan province.

In response to the development, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Tuesday said that Seoul is making diplomatic efforts for the swift release of the ship and crewmembers.

“We have been trying to figure out what happened through the Iranian Embassy in South Korea and the South Korean Embassy in Iran and continuing to make efforts to address this situation,” Yonhap News Agency quoted the Minister as saying to reporters.

Also on Monday, the US State Department called on Iran to immediately release the tanker, saying that the seizure is part of Teheran’s attempt to press the international community into lifting sanctions on the country.

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As the world’s most important oil passageway and a choke point between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, the strait is the route to the open ocean for more than one-sixth of global oil production and 70 per cent of South Korea’s oil imports.

In a similar incident in 2019, Iran had seized the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero, two weeks after a British warship had intercepted an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar, leading to an escalation of tensions.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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