Stena Impero: Seized UK tanker leaves Iranian Port

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IRAN

The UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker detained by Iran is finally leaving the Bandar Abbas port two months after it was seized, according to an Iranian shipping organisation.

The Stena Impero was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar.

“The Stena Impero started sailing from the mooring towards the Persian Gulf’s international waters as of 9:00am (05:30 GMT) today,” Hormozgan province’s maritime organisation said on its website.

The raid saw commandos rappel down onto the vessel via helicopter carrying assault rifles, dramatic images later replayed on state television.

That vessel was released in August.

The Stena has set a new destination for Port Rashid in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, about 250km (155 miles) away, the tracking data showed. At normal tanker speed, it would reach that destination within half a day.

Iran said they seized the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of global oil passes, for alleged violations including turning off its tracking devices to avoid Iranian forces and colliding with a fishing boat, said Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig.

“Many people saw it as retaliation for the seizure of Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar by British royal marines that had taken place two weeks earlier in July,” Baig said, speaking from Tehran.

The Iranian tanker, then called Grace 1, was carrying $130 million in crude oil, which led authorities in Gibraltar to accuse Tehran “of violating European Union sanctions and saying that that tanker was on its way to deliver oil to the Syrian regime,” he continued.

“That Iranian tanker had been released in August but has since been seen off the coast of Syria,” Baig added.

Iran’s foreign ministry had said on Wednesday that a lifting of the detention order had been finalised, but that an investigation into the vessel was ongoing.

Later that day, Stena Bulk said it was not in negotiations with Iran and was not aware of any formal charges against the crew or the company.

Iran had earlier released seven of the ship’s 23 crew members.

The Stena Impero’s seizure on July 19 ratcheted up tensions in the region following tit-for-tat attacks in May and June on other merchant vessels in Gulf waters, which Washington blamed on Tehran. Iran has denied responsibility.

The US cobbled together a maritime coalition in the wake of those attacks on ships passing through the Gulf waters.

Relations between the United States and Iran have become more strained since Washington withdrew last year from a global pact to rein in Tehran’s nuclear programme and imposed sanctions on the country aimed at shutting down Iranian oil exports.

Al jazeera

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