Iran Says Detained British-Flagged Tanker to Be Released

By Bowen Xiao

An Iranian maritime official announced on Sept. 23 that the British-flagged tanker the country detained previously, along with the vessel’s crew, will soon be released.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said all legal steps related to the release of the “Stena Impero,” which has been held for over two months, has been completed. Rabiei added that he did not know the schedule of the vessel’s actual release, according to Iranian media.

The move could be seen as a sign of Iran attempting to ease tensions, Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) International Security Program told The Epoch Times.

“Iran is trying to generate some goodwill in the UK as the UK decides how to respond to the Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities,” Cancian said via email on Sept. 23.

The Stena Impero was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations, on July 19. The seizure came weeks after Britain had seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.

Stena Impero's 23 tanker 1
Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran on Aug. 22, 2019. (Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters)

“The legal work and administrative procedures for the release of the English tanker have been completed but I have no information on the time of the release,” Rabiei said, according to semi-official news agency ILNA.

Semi-official news agency Fars quoted Rabiei as saying, “The legal work for the oil tanker is over … and the oil tanker can move, and the decisions indicate the end of the detention.” He did not elaborate.

The head of the Swedish firm that owns the vessel, Erik Hanell, told Reuters on Sept. 22 that he had arrived in the United Arab Emirates and that there was “no further development” on the vessel’s release.

The vessel’s release comes as the United States prepares to deploy additional troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after President Donald Trump put off any immediate military strike on Iran in response to the recent attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

The extra U.S. presence is the first step in increasing security, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters; he didn’t rule out additional moves down the road.

Trump ordered on Sept. 18 an escalation of already unprecedented sanctions on Iran after drones and cruise missiles struck an oil field and two large oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia on Sept. 14.

Relations between the United States, its allies, and Iran have been gradually more strained since Washington withdrew last year from the Iran nuclear deal agreed upon by the previous administration and other world powers, and reimposed sanctions on Tehran aimed at shutting down Iranian oil exports.

While Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks and Iran denied involvement, the Saudis displayed drone and missile debris as “undeniable” evidence of Iranian involvement. A Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman said during a Sept. 18 news conference that a total of 25 drones and missiles were used in the attacks launched from Iran, not Yemen.

Reuters contributed to this report 

From The Epoch Times