Iran may release British-flagged tanker 'within hours'
Stena Impero was captured and detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, Iranian authorities said, just two weeks after Britain made a similar move on an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar.
“We have received information now this morning that it seems like they will release the ship Stena Impero within a few hours. So we understand that the political decision to release the ship has been taken,” Erik Hanell, chief executive of Stena Bulk, told the Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
“We hope to be able to head out within a few hours, but we don’t want to anticipate events. We want to see that the ship sails out of Iranian territorial waters,” Hanell told SVT.
The move followed the release of seven of 23 23 crew members onboard the vessel earlier this month, during which Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom assured his country had been in daily contact with Iran at a high political level since the vessel was seized.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has seized a ship in the Gulf, saying that it was smuggling 250,000 litres of diesel fuel to the UAE, the Iranian semi-official Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported on Monday.
"It was detained near Iran's Greater Tunb island in the Persian Gulf...the crew have been handed over to legal authorities in southern Hormozgan province," ISNA said.
The Tunb Islands in the Gulf are disputed between Iran and the UAE. The seizure of the vessel coincided with heightened international tensions and a threat to global oil supplies caused by a drone attack on two major oil installations in Saudi Arabia on last weekend.
The Iranian-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of being behind them, saying there was no evidence that the drones were launched from Yemen.
Iran has rejected the US accusations as “meaningless” and warned that it was prepared for war.
Iran has also been engaged in a fight against fuel smuggling by land and sea to neighbouring countries in the Gulf and Asia. It heavily subsidises fuel and this, in addition to its falling currency, means that it has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices.
Its coast guard recently seized a ship for fuel smuggling, detaining 12 Filipino crew members.
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