[Updated] Seized Maersk Vessel, Crew Safely Released

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Published May 8, 2015 2:57 AM by The Maritime Executive

Maersk Line announced today that Iran has released the M/V Maersk Tigris and its crew, which were seized last month in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's major oil shipping lanes.

The vessel was diverted on April 28 by Iranian patrol boats while en route from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates. Iranian officials allowed the release of the Maersk vessel on the condition the company follow through with a judicial decision to pay a $3.6 million settlement to Pars Oil Products. The Iranian company was previously awarded damages over a 2003 case of uncollected cargo. 

Rickmer Shipmanagement, responsible for the operation of the seized ship released a statement today reporting the safe return of both the crew and vessel. "Rickmers Group is pleased to report today its managed container vessel Maersk Tigris with 24 crew members on board has been officially released by Iranian authorities following an order from the court in Bandar Abbas, Iran." 

"Earlier Maersk Line put up a security in relation to the underlying court case. All crew are in a good condition. The news has been conveyed to the families of the seafarers."

The Iranian seizure of the Maersk vessel raised international tension for ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. military began escorting both U.S. and British-flagged vessels passsing through the busy shipping lane. This practice, however, was stopped Wednesday as the situation began to de-escalate. 

Maersk, the world's top container shipping line, had called for the release of the vessel and its crew, who are mostly from Eastern Europe and Asia, and also include a British national.

"The release follows a constructive dialogue with the Iranian authorities, including the Ports and Maritime Organization, and the provision of a letter of undertaking in relation to the underlying cargo case," Maersk Line said in a separate statement.

"We will continue our dialogue with the aim to fully resolve the cargo case."

Rickmers said the vessel would continue on its scheduled voyage to the port of Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates where company representatives would attend the crew and the vessel.

After the statements, ship tracking data showed the vessel was sailing into the Strait of Hormuz and away from the position where it had been anchored for several days close to the major Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

Denmark's Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said his country hoped "similar cases will not occur in the future".

"It is obviously a priority that ... that ships can navigate the area around the Persian Gulf. We have also made that clear in our contact with the Iranian authorities," Lidegaard said on Thursday.

Iran's state news agency IRNA, citing an informed source, said earlier on Thursday the Iranian Ports and Shipping Organization would issue a statement in a few hours on the details of the release of the Maersk Tigris.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Wednesday that the negotiations between "the private complainant and the other party were going on".

About 30% of the world’s seabourne oil shipments travel through the 21-mile-wide Strait of Hormuz.