Tehran, July 21: All 23 crew members of the seized British oil tanker "Stena Impero" are "safe and in good health", the head of the Ports and Maritime Organisation of Iran told Iranian state TV on Sunday. Despite being escorted by a British warship, the oil tanker was stopped on Friday by the Iranian forces and led to the coastal harbour for legal investigations, Xinhua news agency quoted Iran's IRNA news agency as saying. War Threat Looms in Gulf as Iran Seizes British Oil Tankers.
Footage emerged on Saturday appearing to show the moment the tanker was raided. It was released by Iran's Revolutionary Guard-affiliated Fars news agency. It shows masked forces dropping down ropes on to the ship from a helicopter after it was surrounded by high-speed vessels.
HMS Montrose was alerted and raced to intervene, as it did - successfully - with another British-flagged tanker just over a week ago. But this time it was too far away to stop the Stena Impero being seized - the tanker was already in Iranian waters. Iran's IRNA news agency said the tanker was captured after it collided with a fishing boat and failed to respond to calls from the smaller craft.
But Hunt said it was seized in Omani waters in "clear contravention of international law" and then forced to sail into Iran. The Stena Impero's Swedish owners, Stena Bulk, said it had been fully complying with regulations and had been in international waters at the time. It said the crew members were in good health. A second British-owned Liberian-flagged tanker, the MV Mesdar, was also boarded by armed guards on the same day but was released. Indians Among 23 Crew Members On British Oil Tanker Seized by Iran.
It came after Royal Marines helped seize Iranian tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar earlier this month, because of evidence it was carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Iran described the incident as "piracy" but Hunt said the Grace 1 was detained legally in Gibraltarian waters "totally within the law".