Kochi: Amid tension in the high seas over the seizure of and attack on oil tankers, the Iranian embassy in India said that all the crew members, which include three Keralites, of the British-flagged tanker seized on Friday are safe and in good health.
All three Keralites on the British ship named 'Stena Impero are from Ernakulam district. One among them was identified as Dijo Pappachan, 26, of Kalamassery in Kochi. The other two are from Fort Kochi and Thrippunithura. Their names and other details were not immediately known. The Fort Kochi native is said to be the captain of the vessel.
According to the Iranian embassy, all the 23 crew members, among them 18 are from India, are currently on board the vessel.
"All the crew members including the Indian nationals are in good health, they are still on board the tanker," the embassy told Reuters.
Meanwhile, a video clip from the vessel released by Iran's state TV shows the crew members, including Dijo, on board the ship.
Video footage released by Iran earlier showed the 'Stena Impero' being surrounded by speed boats before troops descend onto the vessel on a rope from a helicopter. As per international media reports, the ship's owner said it had asked Iranian authorities for permission to visit the crew and was waiting for a response.
Dijo's parents T V Pappachan and Deena contacted the Mumbai office of the Stena Bulk, the Sweden-based owner of the vessel, on Friday.
“The company officials had promised to make every effort to ensure Dijo's release,” Pappachan, who is a driver, said.
Dijo had contacted his father last around 10:30am on Friday, the day of the seizure. "He told me he was near the Iran coast and his ship was heading to Saudi Arabia to take some chemical products. He told me he would call later, but there has not been any communication after that."
The seizure of the 'Stena Impero' in the Strait of Hormuz - the world's most important waterway for the oil trade - has deepened a crisis between Tehran and the West that was triggered in May when Washington tightened sanctions, effectively barring all countries from buying Iranian oil.
Britain called on Iran on Monday to release the tanker and its crew immediately, describing the seizure as illegal.
European countries including Britain have stuck with the nuclear pact that Iran signed with world powers in 2015 since the United States pulled out three years later.
But the pact is now hanging by a thread and Britain was thrust more directly into the confrontation on July 4, when its Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker, the Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. Britain accused it of violating sanctions against Syria, prompting repeated Iranian threats of retaliation.
Indians on Iranian tanker
Grace 1 also had Indian crew and they are now in British custody. They include three Keralites: third engineer P Prajith, 33, of Kasaragod; junior officer K K Ajmal, 27, of Wandoor in Malappuram; and second officer Rejin, 40, of Guruvayur in Thrissur district.
Ajmal's brother Muhammed Shareef said that they exchanged voice notes via social media on Sunday.
Shareef said his 27-year-old brother told him the captain and the engineer were separated from the rest of the crew once British commandos took over the vessel.
Ajmal said he and the other crew were getting food, water and other essentials.
He said the ship was sailing from the Port of Fujairah with 300,000 metric tons of crude oil when British commandos forced it to stop and came aboard in 10 helicopters, Shareef quoted his brother as saying.
(With inputs from Reuters)