TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- The naval force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has impounded a South Korean-flagged tanker in the Persian Gulf for repetitive violation of maritime environmental law, the IRGC Navy said Monday.
The tanker HANKUK CHEMI, which had departed from the Petroleum Chemical Quay in Saudi Arabia’s Jubail port, was impounded earlier in the day for polluting the Persian Gulf waters with chemicals.
The ship, carrying 7,200 tonnes of ethanol, is now being held at Iran’s southern port of Bandar Abbas, an IRGC Navy statement said.
The vessel’s crew members, including nationals of South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar, have been detained, with the case to be handed over to Iran’s judicial officials for further investigation, it added.
The IRGC said the ship was impounded at the request of the Ports and Maritime Department of Hormogzan Province and upon a judicial order of the provincial prosecutor.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the confiscation has been carried out solely on technical grounds.
"Like all other countries, the Islamic Republic of Iran is very sensitive about contamination of the maritime environment and deals with it on the basis of the existing laws,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
"This incident is not the first of its kind and similar incidents have taken place in Iran’s waters and waters of other countries and is a totally ordinary issue.”
The incident comes ahead of an expected visit by South Korea’s deputy foreign minister to Tehran.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the visit would happen in coming days and would discuss Iran’s demand that South Korea release $7 billion in funds frozen in South Korean banks because of U.S. sanctions.
South Korea’s foreign ministry demanded the immediate release of the tanker, Reuters reported. South Korean forces stationed in the Strait of Hormuz had been dispatched to the area, the ministry said in a statement.
In the past, the IRGC Navy has detained various ships for polluting the Persian Gulf and violating its environmental protocols.
The IRGC seized the Panamanian-flagged Riah tanker for smuggling one million liters of Iranian fuel south of Larak Island in the Persian Gulf on July 14, 2019.
The IRGC also impounded the 30,000-tonne UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker on June 19, 2019 as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia "for failing to respect international maritime rules.”
The vessel was involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and had ignored its distress call, changing its route.