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Iran's IRGC claims to seize 2 oil tankers in Gulf

Iran claims to have captured two foreign oil tankers in the Persian Gulf carrying smuggled fuel and arrested their crews.
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat cruises past an oil tanker off the port of Bandar Abbas, southern Iran, on July 2, 2012. Iran has come up with several methods to foil the European insurance embargo on ships loaded with its crude, a sanction which may harm its vital exports as much as the EU oil embargo itself. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/GettyImages)

Iran has seized two foreign oil tankers, its state media reported on Friday, as tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic in the Gulf continue.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that the navy of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced Thursday it had captured two foreign oil tankers in the Persian Gulf that were carrying 400,000 gallons of smuggled fuel. The tankers, the Steven and the Crown, and were flying under the flags of Panama and Tanzania, IRNA reported. Both ships' crews, 37 people in total, were arrested. 

Al-Monitor was unable to find ships matching their description in shipping databases.

Why it matters: Iran has seized several tankers in recent months for alleged smuggling activities. In July, the IRGC seized a ship it said was smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf. The same month, the US Navy said it thwarted attempts by Iran to seize two commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

The uptick in seizures follows US efforts to boost enforcement of sanctions on Iran’s oil industry. In April, US authorities confiscated the Suez Rajan, accursed of bringing smuggled Iranian crude to China. The 980,000 barrels aboard the ship were finally offloaded in the United States in August after members of Congress questioned whether threats from the IRGC were preventing it.

Relatedly, the United States sent additional forces to the region in August as part of a buildup in response to Iran’s actions at sea.

Know more: Iran’s oil production is steadily increasing despite Western sanctions targeting Iran's nuclear program. Production reached 3.15 million barrels per day in August, the highest figure since 2018, when the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions. The withdrawal from the deal hurt Iran’s oil production and exports, but increased shipments to China have helped the industry this year.

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