The Philippine government said Sunday it would provide assistance to 12 Filipino crew members of a tugboat seized by Iran for alleged oil smuggling.
The vessel was carrying more than 290,000 litres of gas oil, according to the head of the coast guard in the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan.
"Coast guard authorities relayed [to the Philippine Embassy in Tehran] that an investigation is ongoing on the alleged oil smuggling of the crew," the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said in a statement.
"Once this has been established, the matter will be referred to the local court," it added. "The Embassy is seeking further updates on the seafarers' condition, and stands ready to provide assistance when needed." Illegal oil and gas oil smuggling from Iran to the Arab Gulf states is common in the region. While some vessels are caught by the Iranian authorities, many get through.
Iran believes organized gangs are behind the activity and has had difficulty in tracking down ring leaders.
The Philippines is one of the world's largest providers of shipping manpower in the world.
Many of the Filipino sailors man oil tankers, luxury liners, as well as passenger and fishing vessels worldwide, exposing them to piracy attacks and sea accidents.
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