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Iran Frees Indian Crew of Fuel-Smuggling Tanker

TEHRAN The Twelve Indian crewmen of the Panama-flagged MT Riah oil tanker which was detained while smuggling 1 million liters of contraband fuel from Iran were released, and the remaining crew members have been granted consular access.

After impounding two oil tankers for legal violations in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran has released a number of the crewmen and has granted consular access to other remaining crew members.

India's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday the release of the Panama-flagged MT Riah oil tanker's 12 Indian crewmen. The vessel was apprehended by Iranian authorities on July 14.

The vessel was detained for smuggling contraband fuel out of the country, a claim that was later confirmed by Panama's maritime authority.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry also announced that it had granted crewmen of the impounded British-flagged Stena Impero access to their respective consular representatives.

The Stena Impero was impounded by Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) last week for numerous violations of international maritime regulations when it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

The British-flagged vessel has 23 crew members, 18 of which were from India. The other crew members are from Russia, Latvia and the Philippines.

Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Vellamvelly Muraleedharan published images on Thursday showing Indian consular officials meeting with the vessel's crew.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has said that crew members belonging to other nationalities are also due to meet their consular representatives soon.

Shipping firm Stena Bulk, owner of the impounded vessel, also made contact with the ship's master on Tuesday, saying that the crewmembers were safe and that there had been good co-operation with the Iranians. The crew had also spoken to their families.

The apprehension of the British vessel last week came two weeks after British naval forces unlawfully seized Iranian-owned supertanker Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Britain claimed the seizure was based on suspicions that the Iranian tanker was carrying crude oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions against the Arab country.

Iran has condemned the seizure of its tanker as piracy, vowing to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

On Sunday, Panama's maritime authority confirmed that MT Riah tanker operating under the country's flag and seized for smuggling fuel, was indeed in violation of international laws.

The Panamanian Maritime Administration (AMP) censured the use of ships chartered by Panama for illegal acts, days after the IRGC detained the oil tanker when it was smuggling one million liters of Iranian fuel in the Northern part of the Strait of Hormuz.

We categorically condemn the use of vessels with a Panamanian flag for illicit acts that threaten the safety of human life, the AMP said in a statement.

The statement further added that those who clearly violate the laws, conventions and international agreements will be sanctioned and will run the risk that the ship is canceled from the Registry.

Panamanian Ship Registry on Friday officially started withdrawing the registration of MT Riah after an investigation determined the tanker had "deliberately violated international regulations," the AMP announced.

According to specialized international sites, the vessel changed its name four times between 2009 and 2019. The vessel's Dubai-based owner Prime Tankers LLC says it has sold the vessel to Mouj Al-Bahar, another Emirati company.

Source: Fars News Agency