Tugboat operated by Filipino crew seized in Iran for alleged oil smuggling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 8) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has confirmed reports that a tugboat operated by Filipino crew has been seized in the Persian Gulf over alleged oil smuggling.

Philippine Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo Santos said investigation into the crew’s alleged involvement in oil smuggling is ongoing and will be referred to an Iran court afterwards.

The DFA said that the Philippine embassy in Iran is still seeking further updates on the seafarers’ condition. It added that it is ready to provide assistance when needed.

Iranian news outlets earlier reported that 12 Filipinos from the crew were detained after the country’s coast guard seized a foreign tugboat and busted a supposed “fuel-smuggling ring” in the strait.

Authorities said the group is suspected of operating a fuel-smuggling ring and the confiscated shipment was intercepted close to Sirik county. It remains unclear if the detained Filipinos were involved in the smuggling, or just part of the crew.

Aside from the tugboat, reports added that 283,900 litters (75,000 gallons) of petrol worth 233.71 billion rials ($20.2 million) were confiscated.

This is the second time that Filipino seafarers onboard an oil carrier were apprehended in the Persian Gulf.

In July, UK oil tanker MT Stena Impero, which had a Flipino seafarer onboard, was seized by Iranian authorities for allegedly violating international laws.

These incidents are just some in a string of maritime episodes involving Iran, which comes amid tensions in the Gulf following the unilateral withdrawal of the US from a nuclear deal with the country.