Jan. 4 (UPI) — Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have seized a South Korea-flagged tanker, citing pollution, according to Iranian news agencies.
Fars News Agency and Tasnim News Agency reported the ship was captured Monday in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important passageway for oil. The tanker was traveling from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates when Iran’s armed forced seized the ship, reports said.
According to Tasnim, the South Korean ship was causing “environmental and chemical problems in the Persian Gulf,” but the report did not provide details about the cause of pollution.
United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said Monday via its website it is “aware” of an “interaction” that occurred in the morning between a “Merchant Vessel” and “Iranian Authorities.”
“As a consequence of this interaction the Merchant Vessel made an alteration of course North and proceeded into Iranian Territorial Waters,” UKMTO said, without providing further details.
The South Korean ship that was stopped has been identified as the MT Hankuk Chemi, according to South Korean newspaper Korea Economic Daily.
South Korean sources at Seoul’s foreign ministry said they have confirmed five South Korean crew members were on board. The South Korean government is “continuing communications with Iranian authorities” regarding the seizure of the tanker, according to the South Korean press report.
On Monday Iran’s Revolutionary Guards issued a formal statement, charging the MT Hankuk Chemi of “repeated violations” of Iran’s pollution guidelines, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. The armed forces said they will follow “judicial procedures” regarding the ship taken to Bandar Abbas, on the southern coast of Iran.
Iran’s military also said in its statement the ship was carrying 7,200 tons of chemicals. Citizens of South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar were on board, Iran said.