A South Korean-flagged commercial vessel was seized by Iranian paramilitary forces in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday, January 4, officials in Seoul have confirmed.
The chemical tanker Hankuk Chemi, with a cargo of ethanol totalling 7,200 tonnes, was interdicted and boarded by elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) off the coast of Oman.
An Iranian official told state media that the IRGCN seized the vessel and its crew for allegedly polluting the waters of the strait.
Hankuk Chemi and its 20-strong crew of South Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Myanmar nationals are currently detained in the port city of Bandar Abbas. A representative of the Iranian embassy in Seoul has assured that the crew are all safe.
Officials of the South Korean foreign ministry are currently engaged in discussions with their Iranian counterparts to ensure that the ship and its crew are released from Tehran’s custody.
Meanwhile, a detachment of personnel from the South Korean Navy’s Cheonghae Anti-Piracy Unit and the destroyer ROKS Choe Yeong have been despatched to the Strait of Hormuz to monitor and guide other South Korean-flagged vessels passing through the area.
A defence ministry official clarified that the destroyer and the anti-piracy team have not been ordered to carry out any operation to rescue the detained sailors.
A US Navy spokeswoman said that the Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain is also monitoring the situation. However, the official did not state whether any US Navy assets have been deployed to the area in response to the seizure.
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