Iran Seizes British Tanker: MEA Working on Release of 18 Indians

“Our Mission is in touch with Iran to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals,” the MEA said.

3 min read
Among the 23 crew members who were aboard the tanker, 18 are Indian.

Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar, on Sunday 21 July, said that the foreign ministry is working on an early release and repatriation of the 18 crew members of the Stena Impero vessel, that was seized by Iran on Friday, 19 July.

The EAM said that the Indian embassy in Tehran is in constant contact with Iranian authorities to resolve this and that the media will be posted on further developments, as and when they take place.

A British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, comprising 18 Indians among the 23 crew members, was seized by Iranian authorities on Friday, 19 July. The Ministry of External Affairs had earlier said that efforts are underway to secure the release of the Indian nationals.

“We are ascertaining further details. Our Mission is in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals.”
Ministry of External Affairs to ANI

Meanwhile, British PM Theresa May will chair an emergency security session on Monday to discuss how to respond to Iran's seizure of the tanker.

The meeting of security ministers and officials will discuss how to secure shipping in the sensitive region, which is vital to the world's oil supply.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also expected to brief the country’s Parliament on the Friday seizure of the Stena Impero tanker, now in a heavily guarded Iranian port.

Apart from the 18 Indians, the crew aboard the vessel at the time comprised three Russians, a Latvian and a Filipino person each. The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the incident.

Meanwhile, news agency Reuters had reported that the crew and the vessel have been taken to the Bandar Abbas port while Iranian authorities investigate the tanker’s conduct.


What Prompted the Tanker’s Capture

On Friday, the British tanker, Stena Impero reportedly collided with a fishing boat on its route. After the collision, the fishing boat tried to contact the British tanker. However, when it didn’t receive a response, the Hormozgan port and maritime office was informed, The Economic Times reported.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards stepped in and seized the vessel soon after, on charges of “not following international maritime regulations.”

Times Now quoted Erik Hanell, president and chief executive of Stena Bulk, as saying that the company is in close contact with the UK government.

“There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality. There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus. We are in close contact with both the UK and Swedish government authorities to resolve this situation and we are liaising closely with our seafarers’ families.”
Erik Hanell, President and Chief Executive of Stena Bulk to Times Now

Dismissing speculations that a second British-operated vessel, Mesdar, was seized as well, Reuters cited Iran’s Tasmin news agency as reporting that the second tanker had been allowed to continue on its course after being given a warning.

Reuters further reported that the Refinitiv data showed the Stena Impero and Mesdar changed direction sharply within 40 minutes of each other, shortly after entering the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. The Stena Impero had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia.

Britain Warns of ‘Serious Consequences’

Reacting to the Stena Impero’s seizure, British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt had earlier said:

“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”
Jeremy Hunt, British foreign minister to Reuters

Britain has, however, clarified that it is looking for a diplomatic solution to the problem.

The incident appears to be Iran’s retaliation after the British Navy seized Iran’s Grace 1 tanker on 4 July, on suspicion of smuggling oil to Syria, which is a breach of European Union’s sanctions.

In this Thursday, July 4, 2019 file photo, a Royal Marine patrol vessel is seen beside the Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar.
In this Thursday, July 4, 2019 file photo, a Royal Marine patrol vessel is seen beside the Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar.
(Photo Courtesy: AP)

The Stena Impero’s capture also led to a rise in oil prices.

US President Donald Trump had also reportedly said that he would talk to Britain about the issue.

(With inputs from Reuters, AP, The Economic Times and Times Now)

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