Seized British-flagged tanker prepares to leave Iran

The Stena Impero tanker is “preparing for departure from Bandar Abbas” after being seized in Iran, a spokesman for owner Stena Bulk has said.

The tanker has been kept in the Iranian port since July 19.

Iran seized the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world’s oil passes.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency had reported the country’s seizure of the British-flagged oil tanker was due to a collision with an Iranian fishing boat.

On Monday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told journalists that legal proceedings against the Stena Impero had ended.

“Based on a friendly approach that allows forgiving mistakes, ground for freedom of the tanker has been paved and it can move,” Mr Rabiei said.

Its seizure came after authorities in Gibraltar seized an Iranian tanker carrying 130 million dollars (£104 million) in crude oil on suspicion of it breaking European Union sanctions on Syria.

Gibraltar later released the tanker, then called the Grace 1, after it said Iran had promised the ship would not go to Syria.

Tehran’s semi-official Fars new agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi as saying on Wednesday that the vessel was close to being released.

“Today, the procedures for discharging Stena Impro ship has been finalised with the foreign ministry’s follow-ups and valuable co-operation between the judiciary and the Ports and Maritime Organisation Of Iran, but the case stays open to study some of its violations and damages to the environment,” Mr Mousavi tweeted on Wednesday.

The ship seizures came after months of heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf, sparked by US president Donald Trump’s decision over a year ago to withdraw from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and impose crippling sanctions on its vital oil trade.

Iran since has begun breaking terms of the deal.

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