THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is monitoring developments in the seizing on Saturday of a tugboat manned by a Filipino crew in the Persian Gulf.
Philippine Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo C. Santos reported to the Department that the tugboat was seized because of alleged oil smuggling.
He said that Coast Guard authorities relayed that an investigation is ongoing into the alleged oil smuggling by the crew.
Once established, the matter will be referred to the local court, Santos said.
The Embassy is seeking further updates on the seafarers’ condition, and stands ready to provide assistance when needed.
Iranian authorities they seized the boat with 12 Filipino crewmen on suspicion of oil smuggling.
“Coast guards successfully seized a foreign ship in the Strait of Hormuz,” said Major Hossein Dehaki, the coast guard chief in the southern province of Hormozgan.
The boat allegedly carrying contraband fuel had 12 Filipino crew on board, and all of them were arrested, he told an Iranian television station.
Dehaki said the group was suspected of operating a fuel-smuggling ring and the confiscated shipment had been intercepted close to Sirik county in the Strait of Hormuz.
The seizure comes amid tensions in the Gulf after the United States unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear deal putting curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions.
The escalation has seen ships mysteriously attacked, drones downed and oil tankers seized in the Strait of Hormuz — a chokepoint for a third of world’s seaborne oil.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps detained a “foreign tanker” in Gulf waters on July 14 for allegedly smuggling contraband fuel.
“With a capacity of two million litres and 12 foreign crew on board, the vessel was en route to deliver contraband fuel received from Iranian boats to foreign ships,” the Guards said at the time.
Maritime tracking service TankerTrackers reported the Panamanian-flagged MT Riah, used in the strait for fuelling other vessels, had crossed into Iranian waters, and at that point its automatic identification system stopped sending signals.
In the most high-profile seizure, the Guards impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19 for breaking “international maritime rules”.
Iran also seized another ship on July 31 with seven foreign crew onboard over fuel smuggling, but it has not revealed the vessel’s identity or the nationality of its crew.