British-flagged tanker leaves Iranian waters after being captured by Revolutionary Guard

Iran seized the British tanker on July 19 near the Strait of Hormuz – Mizan News Agency

The British-flagged tanker that was seized by Iranian forces in July has left Iranian waters, its owners said.

The Stena Impero left Iran’s Bandar Abbas port on Friday morning and crossed into international waters shortly before midday

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

Erik Hanell, the chief executive of the ship’s owner, Sweden’s Stena Bulk said: “The Stena Impero has now left Iranian waters and is on route to Dubai.”

“The Captain has reported that all crew members are safe and in high spirits following release.”

“Upon arrival, the crew will receive medical checks and de-briefing by the Company, following which arrangements have been made for them to return directly to their families in their respective countries.”

“Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management would like to take this opportunity to praise the crew for their professionalism in the handling of this difficult and stressful situation. Also, to their families who maintained a caring and supportive role throughout.  The importance of their support cannot be over stated.”

The vessel was heading for Dubai’s Port Rashid in the United Arab Emirates, about 250 km (155 miles) away, Refinitiv tracking data showed. At normal tanker speed, it would reach that destination within half a day.

Iran’s seizure of the ship on July 19 ratcheted up tensions in the region after attacks in May and June on other merchant vessels in Gulf waters, which Washington blamed on Tehran. Iran has denied responsibility.

The Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran in Hormozgan Province said in a statement that the ship had begun moving from Bandar Abbas at 9 a.m. Iran time (0530 GMT) on Friday and said it was heading towards international waters.

It said the judicial file on the vessel was still open and the process of looking into “violations” by the ship continued.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry had said on Wednesday that the detention order had been lifted but the investigation continued.

Stena Bulk said on Wednesday it was not in negotiations with Iran and said 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.

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. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The Stena Impero was unlawfully seized by Iran. It is part of a pattern of attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation. We are working with our international partners to protect shipping and uphold the international rule of law.”