Crew of Iran-Seized Oil Tanker Set for Release After Six Weeks
A small sail boat passes in front of the impounded Iranian crude oil tanker, Grace 1, as it sits anchored off the coast of Gibraltar. (Photographer: Marcelo del Pozo/Bloomberg)

Crew of Iran-Seized Oil Tanker Set for Release After Six Weeks

(Bloomberg) -- Iran is releasing seven of the crew on board the U.K.-flagged ship it seized in July, a spokesman for the nation’s foreign ministry said on state television.

The personnel have left the ship and are expected to leave the country soon, he said, without specifying when. The vessel’s owner, Stena Bulk, said it hadn’t received confirmation of a date, but welcomed the plan to free some of the crew. The remaining 16 seafarers will stay on board in order to meet the minimum requirements to operate the ship, making it unclear when the vessel itself would be released.

“We view this communication as a positive step on the way to the release of all the remaining crew, which has always been our primary concern and focus,” Stena Bulk Chief Executive Officer Erik Hanell said in an emailed statement. “We are very pleased that for seven crew members their ordeal may soon be over, and they may return to their families, however we cautiously await official confirmation of their release date.”

Crew of Iran-Seized Oil Tanker Set for Release After Six Weeks

Iran seized the Stena Impero in mid-July, shortly after the U.K. detained a vessel in Gibraltar that was allegedly carrying Iranian crude to Syria. Last month, Gibraltar released that ship, which has been renamed the Adrian Darya 1. Iran said a few days later that it would speed up the legal process for the Stena Impero, though the U.K. government said the two incidents were unrelated.

Earlier this week, the Iranian ship disappeared from satellite tracking in the eastern Mediterranean, sparking speculation that its cargo would be transferred to another vessel.

The detention of the Stena Impero in July sparked tensions in the key shipping chokepoint of the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. and its allies have since started a naval coalition to protect shipping interests in the area, while some shipowners are reducing their business or staying away from the region.

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