British-flagged Stena Impero tanker still held in Iran, says owner

British-flagged Stena Impero tanker still held in Iran, says owner
Erick Hanell, president and CEO of the company Stena Bulk, denied that its tanker had left Iran and said it was still waiting for permission to leave.
2 min read
25 September, 2019
Iran had previously announced it was free to leave [Getty]

The British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, seized in July by Iran, remains anchored at the port of Bandar Abbas despite Tehran saying the vessel was free to leave, its Swedish owner said on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, the specialist shipping website TankerTrackers reported that the Stena Impero had set sail. 

But Erick Hanell, president and CEO of the company Stena Bulk, denied that its tanker had left Iran and said it was still waiting for port control to give permission for the ship to leave.

"Right now no permission, and as far as we know the Iranians still have guards on board," Hanell told AFP.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei had announced on Monday that "the legal process has finished" and the Swedish-owned vessel could leave.

"Despite public statements by Iranian authorities over the past three days that judicial proceedings have concluded, and the Stena Impero is free to leave Iran, the vessel remains detained at anchor in Bandar Abbas." Hanell said. 

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had surrounded the Stena Impero with attack boats before rappelling onto the deck of the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.

The vessel was impounded at Bandar Abbas port for allegedly failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.

“We continue to work hard to secure the release of the crew and vessel," Hanell said. 

The ship's seizure was widely seen as a tit-for-tat move after authorities in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar detained an Iranian tanker earlier in July on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

Iran has denied that the seizure of the Stena Impero was in retaliation for the detention of its own Adrian Darya 1, formerly the Grace 1.

Iran's Adrian Darya 1 was released after a Gibraltar court order in mid-August.

Despite repeated US legal moves and an attempt to bribe the tanker's captain, the tanker ultimately arrived off the coast of the Syrian port of Tartous in early September, according to satellite imagery. 

The UK later said Iran had "breached assurances" and transferred oil to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's "murderous regime".

Tehran has repeatedly denied the two cases are related.

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