Reporting indicates that the South Korean flagged Chemical Tanker HANKUK CHEMI (IMO9232369) has diverted her course northwards into Iranian Territorial Waters (ITW) while inbound to Fujairah from Al Jubail. Unconfirmed reporting indicates that the vessel has been detained by Iranian forces.
The vessel has a crew of 23 comprising of Indonesian and Burmese nationals.
The Fars News Agency, a media outlet for the Government of Iran has tweeted that the IRGC navy seized a South Korean ship “…due to oil pollution in the Persian Gulf and (has) transported it to Iranian ports.”
The precise details of the incident remain unclear. This latest incident comes at a time of increased tension throughout the region.
Iranian-South Korean relations have dramatically declined over the last two years, with Tehran expressing hostilities over South Korea’s refusal to release Iranian oil-revenue from South Korean banks. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has expressed hostilities towards Seoul, labeling their blockage as “…by no means acceptable… we expect Seoul to lift this restriction as soon as possible.”
On December 31 2020, a limpet mine was discovered attached to the hull of the Liberian flagged M/T POLA ivo Al Bakr Oil Terminal. The placement of mines and the detention of vessels within the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman is activity previously attributed to Iranian forces. The IRGC and wider Iranian forces have a well-established practice of combining both attributable and non-attributable activity to control security narratives in the region. By creating conditions of insecurity, Iran seeks to destabilize existing rules of law and order, challenging the Saudi and American coalitions which militarily control much of the Middle East.