Iran frees Filipino, 15 other crew of seized oil tanker–DFA
MANILA, Philippines — A British-flagged tanker, along with its Filipino second officer and other crew members, has been released two months after it was seized by Iran, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
Stena Impero set sail Friday after being held off the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and as of this posting has reached international waters, its Swedish owner said.
Onboard the vessel are the Filipino and 15 other crew members as reported by the Philippine Embassy in Tehran, the DFA said. Seven of Stena Impero’s 23 crew members were freed on September 4.
Philippine Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo Santos, the DFA said, “conveyed to Iranian authorities the appreciation of the Philippine government for releasing the said Filipino crew member, who is the Second Officer of the Stena Impero, and ensuring the safety and well-being of all crew members of the Stena Impero.”
On Wednesday, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said the lifting of the seizure was finalized in a procedure coordinated by the foreign ministry, Iran’s judiciary and its port and maritime authorities.
Erik Hanell, CEO of the company that owns the vessel, Stena Bulk, said that after the ship had left Iran and reached international waters on Friday, it was “obviously a relief” and added that the priority now was the crew.
“She reached international waters about 15 minutes ago,” Hanell told AFP, adding that the ship was heading for Dubai.
“The families of crew members have been informed and the company is currently making arrangements for the repatriation of its valued seafarers at the earliest possible opportunity,” Hanell said.
Aside from the Filipino sailor, 13 Indians and two Russians were also released Friday.
The ship tracking website MarineTraffic.com showed the Stena Impero heading south from Iran at a speed of just over 14 mph (22 kph).
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19 after surrounding the vessel with attack boats and rappelling onto its deck.
It was impounded off the port of Bandar Abbas for allegedly failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.
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 on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
Tehran repeatedly denied the cases were related but a Gibraltar court last month ordered the Iranian tanker’s release despite an 11th-hour US legal bid to keep it in detention. With Associated Press
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