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Iran's IRGC impounds South Korean-flagged tanker in Persian Gulf over environmental violations

The photo shows the South Korean-flagged tanker being escorted by the IRGC Navy after being seized in the Persian Gulf on January 4, 2021. (Photo by Tasnim news agency)

The naval force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has impounded a South Korean-flagged tanker in the Persian Gulf waters for repetitive violation of maritime environmental law.

The IRGC Navy said in a statement on Monday that the tanker HANKUK CHEMI had departed from the Petroleum Chemical Quay in Saudi Arabia's Jubail port before being impounded earlier in the day for polluting the Persian Gulf waters with chemicals.

The statement added that the ship, which carried 7,200 tonnes of ethanol, is now being held at Iran's southern Bandar Abbas port city.

The IRGC further stated that the vessel's crewmembers, who hail from South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar, have been detained, adding that the case will be handed over to Iran's judicial officials for further investigation.

The IRGC said the ship was impounded at the request of Ports and Maritime Department of Hormogzan Province and upon judicial order of the provincial prosecutor. 

The IRGC Navy has been diligently countering contamination of the Persian Gulf’s maritime environment in past years, and in line with its duties in this area, has impounded various ships found to be violating the Persian Gulf’s environmental regulations.

It confiscated a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf in August 2019 that was smuggling fuel to some Arab countries.

A commander with the IRGC, Ramezan Zirahi, said that patrols from the IRGC’s Naval District 2 had seized the ship near the Persian Gulf island of Farsi after intelligence gathering.

The IRGC seized the Panamanian-flagged Riah tanker for smuggling one million liters of Iranian fuel south of Larak Island in the Persian Gulf on July 14, 2019.

The IRGC also impounded the 30,000-tonne UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker on June 19, 2019 as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia “for failing to respect international maritime rules.”

The vessel was involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and had ignored its distress call, changing its route.

“South Korean tanker impounded on merely technical grounds”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman says impounding a South Korean tanker by the IRGC’s Navy has been carried out solely on technical grounds.

“Like all other countries, the Islamic Republic of Iran is very sensitive about contamination of the maritime environment and deals with it on the basis of the existing laws,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said later on Monday.

He added that the South Korean ship has been impounded through a court order in order to see into its environmental violations.

“This incident is not the first of its kind and similar incidents have taken place in Iran’s waters and waters of other countries and is a totally ordinary issue,” Khatibzadeh said.

He added that complementary information will be provided on the South Korean vessel in due time.

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