July 21, 2019
TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that the country’s seizure of British-flagged oil tanker a day earlier was due to a collision with a fishing boat.
Saturday’s report said the British tanker caused damage to the fishing boat, then didn’t respond to calls from the smaller craft.
The fishing boat informed Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, which notified the Revolutionary Guard.
The report says Revolutionary Guard vessels directed the Stena Impero to an Iranian port for an investigation Friday.
Iran’s attempt to offer a “technical” explanation for seizing the tanker could signal a possible de-escalation of tensions in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which has become a flashpoint between Tehran and the west.
Another British ship was briefly detained by Iran on Friday before being allowed to go.
Details of what took place Friday remained sketchy after Iran reported that it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf is a shipping channel for one-fifth of all global crude exports.
The Stena Impero was taken to an Iranian port because it was not complying with “international maritime laws and regulations,” Iran’s Revolutionary Guard declared.
A statement from Stena Bulk, which owns the seized tanker, said it was unable to make contact with the ship after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in international waters. A spokesman for the company’s owners said the tanker was in “full compliance with all navigation and international regulations.”
The company said the tanker had 23 crew members of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationalities and there were no reports of any of them were injured.
The UK has featured prominently in the recent tensions with Iran. Britain’s Royal Marines assisted in the seizure of an Iranian oil supertanker on July 4 by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain.
Britain said it would release the vessel if Iran could prove it was not breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.
Gibraltar’s government said Friday that its Supreme Court had extended by 30 days the detention of the Panama-flagged Grace, which was loaded with over 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil.
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