Iran seizes third foreign tanker in Arabian Gulf

An oil tanker is pictured off the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas, which is the main base of the Islamic republic's navy and has a strategic position on the Strait of Hormuzon April 30, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 August 2019

Iran seizes third foreign tanker in Arabian Gulf

  • Seven crew arrested but name of ship and nationalities of those held remains unknown
  • Operation shines light on Iran’s lucrative fuel smuggling trade

JEDDAH: Iran has seized a third foreign tanker in the Arabian Gulf in less than a month, shining a rare light on the country’s multimillion-dollar fuel smuggling trade.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces boarded the vessel last Wednesday night near Farsi Island, where they have a base. The small tanker was carrying about 700,000 liters of smuggled fuel, the IRGC said on Sunday.

Seven foreign crew were arrested in the operation. The identity of the vessel and the nationality of the crew are not known.

Brig. Gen. Ramezan Zirahi, an IRGC commander, said their boats had been patrolling the Gulf to control traffic and detect illicit trade when they seized the tanker. “The ship was transferred to Bushehr and its smuggled fuel was handed over to the authorities,” he said.

The latest seizure is not thought to be connected to Iran’s “state piracy” in the Gulf, in which large foreign vessels have been harassed and the British tanker Stena Impero was boarded and forced to divert to an Iranian port.

But analysts believe it may be linked to the seizure on July 18 of the MT Riah, a Panama-flagged small coastal tanker which the IRGC said was smuggling fuel.

The murky secondary or black market for oil in and around the Strait of Hormuz is naturally an unregulated phenomenon.

Theodore Karasik, senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics

Iran has some of the lowest fuel prices in the world, because of heavy state subsidies and the plunging value of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, and smuggling is a profitable trade.
Ali Adyani, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s energy committee, has estimated the amout of gasoline being smuggled out of Iran to be 20 million liters a day. Mohammad Hassan Nejad, another member of the committee, puts the figure even higher, at 22 million liters.

 “The murky secondary or black market for oil in and around the Strait of Hormuz is naturally an unregulated phenomenon,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, told Arab News.

“It is conducted by entities seeking profit from this market.  Those who are engaged in this practice are undermining regional efforts to secure safe passage for shipping in an appropriate manner.

“Iran’s seizure of this vessel is an indication of how the secondary market is subject to Tehran’s objective to control all of the Gulf and its waterways.

“It is quite possible that the IRGC runs the lucrative fuel-smuggling operations itself, and a rival operator has tried to muscle in, which would explain these seizures.”

Iraq's oil ministry said on Sunday it has no connection with the tanker after Iran had said earlier that the vessel was Iraqi.
 


UAE cancels visa extension for expatriates

Updated 40 min 11 sec ago

UAE cancels visa extension for expatriates

  • The UAE’s decision to extend the validity of identity cards that expired on March 31 until December 31 was canceled
  • The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship will begin charging fees for its services starting July 12

DUBAI: The UAE Cabinet has revised its earlier regulations for residency visas of expatriates whose stay in the country was affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
UAE residents, whether they are in or outside the country, whose visas expired between March 1 and March 31 this year were given three months to renew their documents after the government took back its earlier decision to extend the validity until the end of December.
The UAE’s decision to extend the validity of identity cards that expired on March 31 until December 31 was also canceled.
The UAE Cabinet’s resolution took immediate effect.
“The decision came after the current situation was studied in detail to ensure that there were no negative effects or repercussions on various sectors,” state news agency WAM reported.
The decision linked to the validity of visas and entry permits for expats inside the UAE – starting March 1 to December of 2020 – will be removed, the report added.
The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship will begin charging fees for its services starting July 12.
The Cabinet also approved granting residents outside the UAE and with expired residency visa after March 1 – or those who have passed six months outside the state – a period to return to the UAE from the date of opening the airspace between both countries.
The Cabinet said the current services must be offered through electronic systems to facilitate and limit the crowding of customers.