'Iran to release seven crew members of detained British tanker'

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By Matthew Holroyd
'Iran to release seven crew members of detained British tanker'
Copyright  Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iran will release seven crew members of the detained British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, according to the vessel's owners.

In an official statement on behalf of Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management, the "positive development" was welcomed.

"We understand that our long-standing request to remove non-essential personnel from Stena Impero is now being acted upon by the Iranian Government and that arrangements are underway for the release of seven crew members from the vessel."

But the owners say they have not received confirmation of a release date directly from the Iranian authorities.

Read more: Iranian authorities seize the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero

Erik Hanell, President and CEO of Stena Bulk, said he was "very pleased that for 7 crew members their ordeal may soon be over, and they may return to their families."

"We view this communication as a positive step on the way to the release of all the remaining crew, which has always been our primary concern and focus.”

Sixteen crew members will remain on board Stena Impero to satisfy the vessel’s Minimum Safe Manning Certificate (MSMC) to safely operate the vessel.

'We have no problem with the crew and the captain'

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told state television on Wednesday that the seven crew members, who include Indian citizens, were allowed to leave the tanker "on humanitarian grounds".

"We have no problem with the crew and the captain and the issue is violations that the vessel committed," Mousavi said.

The Swedish-owned Stena Impero was detained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards on July 19 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 vessel was subsequently released in August.

The seizure of the Iranian tanker had exacerbated tensions between Tehran and the West since the United States last year pulled out of an international agreement curbing Iran's nuclear program and re-imposed economic sanctions.

UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab had called for more international support to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz during a meeting with his French and German counterparts early on August 30.