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Iranian maritime official says UK tanker to be released soon

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo shows a speedboat of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps moving around the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, July 21, 2019. (By AP)

An Iranian maritime official says the Stena Impero, the British-flagged tanker detained by Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in July in the Persian Gulf for violating international maritime law, will be released soon.

"Pursuant to a court order requiring an end to detention of the British oil tanker Stena Impero, this vessel will soon be released after 65 days of detention and begin its movement from the port of Bandar Abbas toward international waters," Allahmorad Afifipour, the head of the Ports and Maritime Department of Iran's Hormozgan Province was quoted by Fars news agency as saying on Sunday.

Noting that legal procedures for the tanker's exit from Iranian waters are underway and the results would be announced later, the official, however, added that the case related to the ship's infractions of the maritime law is still open.

"The final judgment on the violation of maritime law [by the UK vessel] will be passed through legal channels and its judicial results will be announced" in due time, he said.

The 30,000-tonne UK-flagged tanker was seized by Iranian naval forces on July 19, when it ignored distress calls as it collided with a fishing boat on its route.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said the ship had also used a wrong path to enter the Strait of Hormuz. 

A day after the seizure of the Stena Impero, Iran released footage showing Iranian speedboats cruising near the tanker as a military helicopter hovered over the vessel.

An Iranian marine could be heard communicating with the command center in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas.

Earlier on Sunday, the chief executive of the Swedish firm which owns the Stena Impero said he had been informed that the vessel may be released later in the day.

"We have received information now this morning that it seems like they will release the ship Stena Impero within a few hours. So we understand that the political decision to release the ship has been taken," Swedish public broadcaster SVT quoted Stena Bulk Chief Executive Erik Hanell as saying.

Earlier this month, Iran released seven crew members of the oil tanker “on humanitarian grounds.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Moussavi said, “We have no problem with the crew and captain of the ship. The vessel was impounded for committing a violation and, naturally, when a ship is seized, its crew members come under arrest likewise.”

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