In touch with Iran to secure release of Indian crew on seized oil tanker: MEA
New Delhi said on Saturday it was in touch with Tehran for the early release of 18 Indian crew members of a British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iranian forces and detained at Bandar Abbas port.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said troops “confiscated” the Stena Impero tanker in the strait of Hormuz for allegedly violating international laws. The vessel “was led to the shore and handed over to (authorities) to go through the legal procedure and required investigations”, IRGC’s official website said.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “We are ascertaining further details on the incident. Our mission is in touch with the government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals.”
Eighteen of the ship’s 23-member crew are Indians, people familiar with developments said.
Stena Bulk, the Swedish company that owns Stena Impero, said it had not been unable to contact the ship. The firm’s president Erik Hanell said, “There are 23 seafarers on board of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality. There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus.”
The vessel was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations, the firm said.
Iran’s semi-official Fars new agency reported the tanker was seized on Friday after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored. The vessel and crew will remain in Bandar Abbas port while the incident is investigated, the head of the Ports and Maritime Organisation in Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, was quoted as saying by Fars.
France and Germany joined Britain in condemning the seizure.
Tensions have soared in the Persian Gulf in recent weeks, with US President Donald Trump calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed a US drone in June. The US also blamed Iran for a series of tanker attacks, a charge denied by Tehran.
The US has been increasing sanctions against Iran after it unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal whereby Tehran agreed to limit its atomic development activities in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.