Iran says seized British tanker 'free' to leave

Iran says seized Stena Impero tanker 'free' to leave after two-month standoff
2 min read
23 September, 2019
Iran detained the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker after Gibraltar refused to release its own tanker accused of shipping oil to Syria.
The British-flagged tanker was detained in July [Getty]
Iran said on Monday that a British-flagged oil tanker is "free" to leave more than two months after it was detained in a key Gulf shipping route.

The Stena Impero was seized by Iran's Republican Guard Corps in July, shortly after the UK detained an Iranian tanker suspected of shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union Sanctions.

"The legal process has finished and based on that the conditions for letting the oil tanker go free have been fulfilled and the oil tanker can move," government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a news conference.

Rabiebi did not specify when the vessel, owned by Swedish shipping company Stena Bulk, would be allowed to set sail.

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, off the coast of Gibraltar by the UK navy.

Iranian authorities have instead said the tanker was impounded at Bandar Abbas for allegedly failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.

Stena Bulk said on Sunday that it expected the tanker to be released soon, but expressed caution about the situation.

"We understand that the political decision has been taken to release the ship," chief executive Erik Hanell told Swedish television station SVT.

"We hope it will be able to leave in a few hours, but we don't want to take anything for granted. We want to make sure the ship sails out of Iranian territorial waters," he said.

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".

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