On February 22, 2019 an Iranian dhow caught fire in the waters of Seychelles, while it was being towed to the main island by the national Coast Guard. The vessel was apprehended during a joint operation of the Seychelles Coast Guard, Seychelles Defence Forces’ Air Force and the National Information Sharing and Coordination Centre. Thirteen members of the crew, all Iranian nationals- were reportedly on board when the fire started. According to the local authorities, three of them were hospitalised because of their condition. It is not clear whether the men, suspected to be involved in illegal activities in Seychellois waters, set the dhow on fire to cover up its load. A similar case occurred in April 2018 when an Iranian dhow suspected to be involved in drug-trafficking activities caught fire and sank in Seychellois waters after being boarded by agents from the National Police and Coast Guard. All 14 crew members were spared by the fire and transferred to the ex-Seychelles Coast Guard base, expecting to be charged by the authorities. In November 2018 the Magistrate’s Court of Seychelles remanded 28 Iranian nationals for drug-related charges after they were arrested in a joint operation of the Anti-Narcotics Bureau and the Coast Guard. During the operation, 500 gr. of cannabis resin, and 2.5 gr. of heroin were seized.
For the past few years, the number of incidents involved Iranian nationals and drug-related offences in Seychellois territorial waters is increasing. This underlines the islands’ vulnerability to illicit activities at sea, but it also accounts for the national authorities’ capacity to undertake joint operations to tackle transregional maritime organised crime.