The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Saturday said it was ascertaining Iran’s claims that there are 18 Indians among the 23 people who have been detained onboard the Stena Impero British oil tanker, which is currently anchored at the Bandar Abbas port.
“We are ascertaining their details. Our mission is in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals,” the ministry was quoted as saying by ANI.
Iran said it had seized the vessel in the Strait of Hormuz Friday after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat. The country claimed the British vessel failed to respond to the boat’s “distress call”.
The crew, which also comprises five other nationals, will remain on board until an investigation is conducted, the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters on Friday.
“All its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over,” Afifipour said.
The impounding of the vessel stoked tensions in the region Friday, with Britain calling the seizure “unacceptable”. Britain Prime Minister Theresa May called an emergency meeting to take stock of the situation, as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the country would respond to the seizure in a “considered but robust” way.
“We’re not looking at military options; we’re looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation,” Hunt said. “But we are very clear that it must be resolved.”
Stena Bulk statement on Iran’s seizure of British oil tanker
The operator of the tanker, Stena Bulk, issued a statement Saturday morning saying the Swedish-owned vessel, Stena Impero, had been “in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations”, but was “no longer under the control of the crew and remains uncontactable”.
Erik Hanell, president and chief executive of 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.”
Trump says Iran is ‘nothing but trouble’
Commenting on the impoundment of the tanker by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, President Donald Trump said US officials would talk with Britain about the unfolding crisis. “This only goes to show what I’m saying about Iran: Trouble, nothing but trouble,” he said.
The tension between Iran and Britain over the seized vessel comes a day after the United States said it had downed an Iranian drone menacing a US warship in the region. However, confirming that it seized a British oil tanker on Friday, Iran denied Washington’s assertion that the US Navy had downed an Iranian drone nearby this week, as tensions in the Gulf region rose again.
Relations between US and Iran worsened last year when Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. Under the pact, Iran agreed to restrict nuclear work, long seen by the West as a cover for developing atomic bombs, in return for lifting sanctions. But sanctions have been imposed again, badly hurting Iran’s economy. Trump said he would talk to Britain about Friday’s seizure, which drove oil prices up above $62 a barrel.
France expresses concern over Iran’s seizure of British tanker
Expressing concern over the seizure of the British oil tanker, France’s foreign ministry today said such an action harmed de-escalation efforts in the region, reports news agency Reuters.
On Friday, Iran said that it had seized Britain’s Stena Impero tanker, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf, the news agency reported.
“We have learned with great concern of the seizure of a British vessel by Iranian forces,” the ministry said in a statement. “We strongly condemn it and express our full solidarity with the United Kingdom.”
Germany condemns tanker seizure by Iran, urges release of ship, crew
Germany has also condemned the “unjustifiable” seizure by Iran of two merchant ships in the Strait of Hormuz and said the move dangerously exacerbated an already tense situation in the area.
“We urge Iran to release (this)… ship and its crew immediately,” a German foreign ministry spokesman said. A further escalation of regional tensions “would be very dangerous (and)… undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis,” the spokesman said in a statement.
(With inputs from Agencies)