Stockholm/Dubai/London: Seven crew members of the Swedish-owned tanker Stena Impero seized by Iran in July will be released, the chief executive of Stena Bulk that owns the tanker said Wednesday.
"Seven crew members will be released according to the Iranian authorities... but we don't know when," Stena Bulk CEO Erik Hanell told AFP, adding that the company was "cautiously" awaiting official confirmation of their release date.
The British-flagged tanker has a total crew of 23 on board, among them are 18 Indians including three Keralites. The seven to be released include five Indians, one Latvian and a Russian.
Stena Impero was detained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told the TV that the seven, who include Indian citizens, were allowed to leave the tanker on humanitarian grounds and could leave Iran soon.
"We have no problem with the crew and the captain and the issue is violations that the vessel committed," Mousavi said.
"We are very pleased that for seven crew members their ordeal may soon be over, and they may return to their families, however we cautiously await official confirmation of their release date," Erik Hanell, Stena Bulk's president and chief executive, said in a statement.
The company said the remaining 16 crew members would remain onboard to safely operate the vessel.
Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping trade association, said Iran had to immediately release the remaining mariners once the seven crew had been freed.
"The ship was in international waters when it was detained and was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations," Sanguinetti said.
"The Chamber will continue to work with the UK Government to ensure the free passage of ships through the Strait of Hormuz."
Several international merchant vessels have been attacked in the Gulf this year in incidents that have rocked world commodity trading. Washington blames Iran, which denies the accusation.
Iran has denounced US efforts to set up a coalition and says countries in the region can protect waterways and work towards signing a non-aggression pact.
The seizure of the Adrian Darya 1 Iranian tanker exacerbated tensions between Tehran and the West that have been growing since the United States last year quit an international accord curbing Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed economic sanctions.
(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)