Iranian authorities seize South Korean-flagged tanker in Persian Gulf
Iranian authorities seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in the Persian Gulf, in waters near Oman on Monday, confirmed the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the vessel, MT Hankuk Chemi, which had been traveling to the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia. There were 20 crew members aboard the ship — five South Koreans, 11 Burmese, two Indonesians and two Vietnamese.
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Monday that the vessel, sailing in the Strait of Hormuz, had been headed toward Iranian waters upon the request of Iran’s authorities.
The ministry confirmed the safety of the crew members and said that it was requesting for the release of the ship.
Iranian media outlets reported that the authorities had seized the vessel for polluting the sea with chemicals in violation of environmental laws.
The Busan-based operator of the vessel, DM Shipping, said that MT Hankuk Chemi had been sailing in international waters and that there was no pollution.
The Revolutionary Guards said that the vessel was being held at Iran's Bandar Abbas Port.
The Korean Cheonghae Unit, which conducts antipiracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, was dispatched to waters near the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic waterway located between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman through which more than 70 percent of Korea’s crude oil supply passes, to support the situation, said Seoul’s Defense Ministry Tuesday.
The U.S. State Department on Monday called for Iran to immediately release the Korean tanker.
A State Department spokesperson said in a statement, “The regime continues to threaten navigational rights and freedoms in the Persian Gulf as part of a clear attempt to extort the international community into relieving the pressure of sanctions.”
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry was set to summon the Iranian ambassador to Korea Tuesday to assure the safety of the crewmen and request the early release of the ship.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]