TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran has asked Indonesia to provide details about the seizure of an Iranian-flagged vessel, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday, a day after Jakarta said it had seized Iran and Panama-flagged tankers in its waters.
Indonesia said on Sunday its coast guard had seized the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and the Panamanian-flagged MT Freya vessels over suspected illegal oil transfer in the country’s waters.
Khatibzadeh said that the seizure was over "a technical issue and it happens in shipping field”.
"Our Ports Organization and the ship owner company are looking to find the cause of the issue and resolve it,” Khatibzadeh told a televised weekly news conference.
Coast guard spokesman Wisnu Pramandita said the tankers, seized in waters off Kalimantan province, will be escorted to Batam island in Riau Island Province for further investigation.
Wisnu told Reuters on Monday that the ships were caught transferring oil from MT Horse to MT Freya and that there was an oil spill around the receiving tanker.
He added that 61 crew members onboard the vessels were Iranian and Chinese nationals and had been detained. Indonesia’s foreign and energy ministries did not immediately comment on the matter.
Both the supertankers, each capable of carrying 2 million barrels of oil, were last spotted earlier this month off Singapore, shipping data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.
Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) MT Horse, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), was almost fully loaded with oil while VLCC MT Freya, managed by Shanghai Future Ship Management Co, was empty, the data showed.
Asked to comment on the seized tanker, Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zanganeh told reporters : "It was carrying oil ... the issue is being followed up by Iran.”
Iran sent the MT Horse vessel to Venezuela last year to deliver 2.1 million barrels of Iranian condensate.
Over the past few months, MT Freya has delivered two crude oil cargoes totaling about 4 million barrels into Qingdao port on the east coast of China and northeast Yingkou port, said Emma Li, a senior crude analyst with Refinitiv.
The Qingdao cargo was declared as Upper Zakum crude produced in the United Arab Emirates, said Li, who tracks China-destined crude oil shipments.
Iranian crude remains subject to American sanctions but firms that monitor Iran’s output -- Petro-Logistics SA, Kpler Ltd. and SVB International LLC -- have seen it creep higher.
"The output and export increase is an anticipation of Biden’s softer approach toward Iran,” Sara Vakhshouri, SVB’s founder and president, told Bloomberg.
Zanganeh said Friday Iran’s oil exports have climbed in recent months and its sales of petroleum products to foreign buyers reached record highs despite U.S. sanctions.
Zanganeh did not give figures but said exports of crude had recently risen "significantly” despite tough sanctions that were imposed since 2018, when the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a nuclear pact.
"We set the highest record of exports of refined products in the history of the oil industry during the embargo period,” the minister said, according to his ministry’s news agency SHANA.
"If the sanctions are lifted, we will return to the market stronger than before, and faster than expected,” Zanganeh said. "I am not worried about the lost markets.”
Iran has increased exports of petroleum products in recent years, although products also fall under sanctions.
Unlike crude, where the ultimate buyer is a refinery, gasoil and other products can be sold to smaller industrial or residential buyers making sales harder to trace or track.
"The enemy and Trump wanted us to perish and die, our exports to reach zero,” he said, adding "but we are alive and working with more hope to build the country.”
In the past, China, India and South Korea were major buyers of Iranian oil.