Ambassador says Iran gives consular access to 18 crew of the British vessel

Iran releases 9 Indian crewmen of impounded oil tanker 

July 26, 2019 - 19:49

TEHRAN - After impounding two oil tankers for violating international regulations in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran has released a number of the crewmen and has granted consular access to other remaining crew members.

India’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday the release of nine out of 12 Indian crewmen of the Panama-flagged MT Riah oil tanker. The vessel was apprehended by Iranian forces on July 14, according to Press TV.

The vessel was detained for smuggling fuel out of Iran, a claim that was later confirmed by Panama’s maritime authority.

Iran’s Ambassador to Britain Hamid Baeidinejad tweeted early Friday that Tehran had granted India consular access to 18 Indian crew members of the British vessel.

“Similar access is underway to other 5 crew from other nationalities. Indian Embassy has reported to find the crew being very calm with no sense of panic,” he added.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry also announced that it had granted crewmen of the impounded British-flagged Stena Impero access to their respective consular representatives.

The British-flagged vessel has 23 crew members, 18 of which were from India. The other crew members are from Russia, Latvia and the Philippines.

Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Vellamvelly Muraleedharan published images on Thursday showing Indian consular officials meeting with the vessel’s crew.

Shipping firm Stena Bulk, owner of the impounded vessel, also made contact with the ship’s master on Tuesday, saying that the crewmembers were safe and that there had been good cooperation with the Iranians. The crew had also spoken to their families.

The apprehension of the British vessel last week came two weeks after British naval forces unlawfully seized the Iran-operated supertanker Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Britain claimed the seizure was based on suspicions that the tanker was carrying crude oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions against the Arab country.

Iran has condemned the seizure of the tanker as “maritime piracy”, vowing to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

Last week, the British overseas territory of Gibraltar extended the detention of Iranian tanker for a month.

Britain ratchets up tensions in the Persian Gulf

On Thursday, British media reported that the British government has said it will provide a Royal Navy escort for British-flagged ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz, advising ship owners to provide details of their route.

On Monday, then-Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had said that the UK would seek to create a European-led mission in the Persian Gulf.

The announcement has been denounced by Iranian officials, with Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, a top military adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution, warning the UK about the possible ramifications of the move.

“The UK’s proposal for a European force in the Strait of Hormuz could lead to unpredictable consequences [for London],” General Dehqan told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

“Our equation in the Strait of Hormuz is that either everyone enjoys full security or no one does.”

SP/PA

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