Swedish-owned oil tanker still held in Iran despite promises of release

The Stena Impero, seized in July by Iran, has not been able to leave the port of Bandar Abbas despite Tehran's statements to the contrary, its Swedish owner says.

Swedish-owned oil tanker still held in Iran despite promises of release
The Stena Impero pictured in July. Photo: Morteza Akhoondi/Tasnim News Agency via AP

On Tuesday, the specialist shipping website TankerTrackers reported that the Stena Impero had set sail.

But Erick Hanell, president and CEO of the company Stena Burk, 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 19th.

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.

A Gibraltar court ordered the Iranian tanker’s release on August 15th despite an 11th-hour US legal bid to keep it in detention.

Tehran has repeatedly denied the two cases are related.

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