Indonesia seized the MT Horse and MT Freya on Sunday on suspicion they had made illegal oil transfers

The seizure of the ships, which had Iranian and Chinese workers, were not related to US sanctions, Indonesia said

China said on Wednesday it was seeking details about 25 of its nationals who were among 61 crew on two supertankers seized by

on suspicion of illegally transferring oil.

The vessels were seized on Sunday after they were detected making the transfer from Iranian-flagged MT Horse to Panamanian-flagged MT Freya, causing an oil spill.

The Indonesian authorities said the seizure was not related to US sanctions, which Washington imposed in a bid to shut off Iran’s oil exports in a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The MT Horse, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, and MT Freya, managed by Shanghai Future Ship Management Co, were detected off Indonesia’s Kalimantan island.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said 25 of the crew members were Chinese, without saying whether the crew were all on one vessel or split between both.

“Our embassy has expressed concern to Indonesia,” Zhao said. “We urged them to verify the situation about the Chinese seamen as soon as possible and inform us formally.”

He said China called on Indonesia to conduct an investigation “fairly and in accordance with the law”.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah, said there had been “initial communication” with China and Iran, and said further discussion would depend on results from the investigation.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday the seizure of its tanker was over a technical issue and that it had asked Indonesia to provide more details.

Iran has been accused of seeking to conceal the destination of its oil sales by disabling tracking systems on its tankers.

The Indonesian authorities said the ships concealed their identity by not showing national flags, turning off automatic identification systems and failing to respond to a radio call.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires ships to use transponders for safety and transparency. Crews can turn off devices if there is a danger of piracy or similar hazards.

“We welcome the Indonesian Coast Guard efforts to counter illicit maritime activity,” said a US embassy spokesman in Jakarta, adding that Washington supported efforts to ensure IMO standards for safety and environmental compliance were upheld.

On Wednesday, both tankers were anchored off Batam Island in the Riau Islands south of Singapore, the Indonesian government said.

In August, US officials said the Trump administration seized 1.1 million barrels of gasoline from four tankers bound from Iran to Venezuela.

In 2018, ships were captured in satellite photos transferring oil to North Korean ships off the Chinese coast in a possible effort to evade UN sanctions on North Korea. The Chinese government said it would investigate but has yet to announce results.

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