12 Pinoy seamen held captives in Iran due to alleged oil smuggling

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A tugboat manned by Filipino seamen was captured by the Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf for allegedly smuggling oil.

A tugboat manned by Filipino seamen was captured by the Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf for allegedly smuggling oil on Saturday, said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday. 

Wilfredo Santos, Philippine Ambassador in Iran, reported to the DFA the seizing of the tugboat. 

“[Santos] said that Coast Guard authorities relayed that an investigation is ongoing on the alleged oil smuggling of the crew, and once this has been established, the matter will be referred to the local court,” the DFA reported. 

Further updates on the seafarers’ condition will be monitored by the embassy to prepare for the assistance that will be needed by the Filipino captives. 

The seizing of Filipino crew

The tugboat was suspected of containing fuel that was being smuggled in the Gulf, that’s why Iran’s coast guards seized it. 

It was reported that it contains nearly 284,000 liters of diesel. 

After that, DOLE confirmed yesterday that 12 of the crew in the seized tugboat are Filipinos. 

Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III, however, said the government will provide assistance to the Filipino crewmen. 

“The Department of Foreign Affairs is coordinating all efforts to find out the status of our Filipino seafarers so we anticipate legal assistance which we could extend to them.”

On the other hand, Bello admitted that they do not have any information yet about the current status of the Filipino crew. 

“We have yet to know the identities of our seafarers because Iranian authorities are not releasing information.” 

Iran has been prevalently fighting the smuggling of oil over its ground to neighbouring countries, and by sea to Gulf Arab states. 

The country has some of the cheapest fuel in the world because of the heavy state subsidies. 

Incidents in Gulf Arab states

Seizures of tankers have been happening as tensions rise between Iran and the western countries in the Gulf.

This has been occuring due to the withdrawal of United States from Tehran’s world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal and then reimposed sanctions. 

Iranian media reports say an estimated 10 million liters of fuel are being smuggled per day. However, Tehran promotes legal gasoline exports through its energy bourse.

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