MSC Works to Release Crew and Cargo from Ship Seized by Iran

MSC containership
MSC is working for the release of the crew and cargo from the seized containership (MSC)

Published Apr 17, 2024 2:39 PM by The Maritime Executive


Diplomatic and commercial efforts are underway to gain the freedom of the crew from the MSC Aries containership that Iran seized on Saturday, April 13 as it was nearing the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has come under pressure from Portugal where the ship is registered as well as India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Russia, all of which have crewmembers aboard the vessel.

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company released a statement today reporting that all the crewmembers are safe while reporting that “discussions with the Iranian authorities are in progress to secure their earliest release.”

Media reports in Pakistan indicate that Iran has agreed to release two of the country’s citizens among the crew as Iran works to improve relations with the country. Indications are the Pakistanis are planning to host a visit by the Iranians with the reports saying the crew release was designed to not interfere with those efforts.

At the same time, media in India is reporting that the crewmembers were permitted to make calls home on Monday night. It was the first direct contact with the crew from the vessel. India had demanded access to its 17 citizens aboard the vessel which is reported to have a total crew of 25. A female deck cadet working on the MSC Aries was permitted to leave the ship and returned to India.

The progress for the crew came as the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Iran’s Deputy President for Legal Affairs Mohammad Dehghan as describing the seizure of the container ship as a “retaliatory move.” He spoke about the MSC Aries during a cabinet session on Wednesday in Tehran according to IRNA.

Portugal reported that its foreign office had summoned the Iranian ambassador and demanded the immediate release of the crew and the ship. They said they were awaiting a formal response from Iran after reporting they had received conflicting messages from the Iranians over the incident.

The crew is reportedly telling family members that they are being well treated and it was indicated that they are not under arrest. They said food is being provided and they are continuing their work aboard the vessel which is anchored offshore. TankerTrackers.com located the ship in the Khuran Straits near three seized oil tankers. Their analysts told CNBC that the containership could be held indefinitely.

MSC said in its statement “We are also working with the Iranian authorities to have the cargo discharged.” The carrier said it is continuing uninterrupted and regular service on its routes in the region.

Bloomberg reports that there are 50 containers aboard with contents classified as hazardous but that most of the cargo appeared to be ordinary industrial goods with possibly some chemicals. They are reporting most of the containers were bound for Turkey, Belgium, and Italy, but that 90 were destined for the United States.