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Iran May Release Stena Impero

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File image courtesy Stena Bulk

By The Maritime Executive 2019-09-09 19:37:42

The UK-flagged, Swedish-owned tanker Stena Impero may finally be released from detention in the near future, according to Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi. 

According to Iranian state TV outlet IRNA, Mousavi reports that the Impero is "undergoing the last legal procedures" and will hopefully be released "in the near future."

Commandos from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized the UK-flagged Stena Impero as she transited the Strait of Hormuz on July 19. The UK Royal Marines conducted a similar seizure of the Iranian VLCC Adrian Darya 1 (ex name Grace 1) on July 4, and the Impero's detention was widely seen as a hostage-taking retaliatory measure targeting British shipping. 

The Adrian Darya 1 has since arrived off the coast of Syria, where she is expected to deliver her cargo despite EU and U.S. sanctions. Though Iran denies any connection between the two tankers' circumstances, the statement on the Stena Impero's pending release accompanied an announcement that the Darya had completed her voyage. 

Seven crewmembers from the Impero have already been allowed to depart Iran. Last Thursday, Stena Bulk president and CEO Erik Hanell confirmed that these crewmembers were under way for a safe location where they would be reunited with their families. After medical checkups and a debriefing, they were slated for repatriation to their home countries. 

“We will offer them and their families whatever support they need to ensure they can recover fully," said Hanell. “We continue to work tirelessly to obtain the release of the remaining crew onboard the Stena Impero and will continue to provide all possible support to their families during this difficult time.”

Iran has alleged that the Impero operated in an improper manner prior to her seizure, and has raised the prospect of an extended investigation. Stena Bulk maintains that there is no evidence that the vessel "breached any maritime rules or regulations," and Hanell said that the company stands behind the crew and their conduct. 

16 crewmembers remain aboard the Impero, enough to satisfy the vessel's minimum manning requirements.