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British-Flagged Tanker Docks in Dubai after Iran Release

British-Flagged Tanker Docks in Dubai after Iran Release

Saturday, 28 September, 2019 - 17:15
Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, docks at Port Rashid in Dubai, United Arab Emirates September 28, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

The British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero arrived in Dubai on Saturday, after being detained with its crew in Iran for more than two months in an incident that inflamed tensions in the region.


Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized the vessel in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19 after surrounding it with attack boats and rappelling onto its deck.


It was then impounded off the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas for allegedly failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.


But the 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.


British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said however that the tanker was "unlawfully seized by Iran" as part of attempts to "disrupt freedom of navigation".


On Friday, the Stena Impero was finally cleared to sail from Iran and into international waters of the Gulf.


"Despite the vessel's clearance, its legal case is still open in Iran's courts," Hormozgan province's maritime organization in southern Iran said on its website.


The tanker's captain and crew have "given a written, official statement that they have no claims", it added.


The ship docked at Port Rashid in Dubai on Saturday after halting off the coast of the emirate overnight, according to data from ship tracking website MarineTraffic.com.


Pool reporters at the commercial port confirmed the ship had moored and the Swedish-owned vessel was seen surrounded by several small boats, including at least one flying the United Arab Emirates flag.


The CEO of Stena Bulk, the firm that owns the vessel, had said the ship's sailing was "obviously a relief" and that the priority was those on board. Seven of its 23 crew members were released on September 4.


"When we reach Dubai we will firstly take care of the crew and then try and get the ship in operational order again," Erik Hanell told AFP on Friday.


The tanker's crew are "safe and in high spirits" and arrangements had been made for them to return to their families upon arrival in Dubai, he said.


"The crew will have a period of time to be with their families following 10 weeks of detainment on the vessel. Full support will be offered to the crew and families in the coming weeks to assist with their recovery."


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