India in touch with Iran to secure release of Indians aboard British oil tanker

NEW DELHI/LONDON: India on Saturday said it was in touch with Iran to secure release of the Indians onboard a British-flagged oil tanker seized by the Gulf country in the Strait of Hormuz.

India in touch with Iran to secure release of Indians aboard British oil tanker

This handout photo received on July 19, 2019, courtesy of Nico Kemps, shows the Stena Impero, a British-flagged tanker, off the coast of Amsterdam on December 26, 2018. — Nico Kemps/handout/AFP

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New Delhi/London, July 20

India on Saturday said it was in touch with Iran to secure release of the Indians onboard a British-flagged oil tanker seized by the Gulf country in the Strait of Hormuz.

“We are ascertaining further details on the incident. Our Mission is in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to a question on the detention of Indian crew members along with the oil tanker Stena Impero by Iranian authorities.                  

According to a media report, 18 Indian nationals are among the 23 crew members of the British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran amid fresh escalation of tensions in the Gulf region.

The Stena Impero was seized on Friday by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker was allegedly due to a collision with an Iranian fishing boat, Iran’s official news agency IRNA said.

“There are 18 Indian and five crew members from Russia, Philipines, Latvia and other countries on board of Stena Impero. The captain is Indian, but the tanker is UK-flagged,” the news agency quoted Allahmorad Afifipour, director-general of Ports and Maritime Affairs of Hormuzgan province, as saying.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt in a phone call on Saturday, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards posted a video online on Saturday showing speedboats pulling up alongside the detained British-flagged tanker Stena Impero and troops wearing ski masks and carrying machine guns rappelling to its deck from a helicopter.

The name of the ship can be seen in the video.

Stena Bulk, a Swedish company which owns the vessel, said they have been unable to contact the ship, which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz, a key waterway in the region.

“Soon after the vessel was approached by unidentified small naval craft and a helicopter during her transit of the Strait of Hormuz in international waters...the vessel suddenly deviated from her passage to Jubail and headed north towards Iran,” the company said in statement.

The vessel was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations, it said.

Erik Hanell, President and Chief Executive, Stena Bulk, said: “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,” Hanell said.

In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized an Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.

Gibraltar claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria “in violation” of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus, escalating tensions in the Gulf. Agencies 

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