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Iranian Official: British Tanker Seized after Accident with Fishing Boat

TEHRAN Director General of the Ports and Maritime Organization's office of Hormuzgan province Allah Morad Afifipour said that the British oil tanker, 'Stena Impero', which was seized by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in the Persian Gulf was seized because it ignored calls from a fishing boat after an accident in the waterway.

"The British oil tanker, Stena Impero, had an accident with a fishing boat on its way and according to the law, the reason and other issues related to the accident should be studied," Afifipour told FNA on Saturday.

He added that sailors on the damaged fishing boat had contacted the British vessel, but the tanker had ignored their calls.

"When the British vessel did not respond to the fishing vessel, they informed Ports and Maritime Organization's office of Hormuzgan province according to the legal procedures," Afifipour said, adding that his office had requested the Judiciary and the IRGC to stop the British tanker.

The IRGC announced in a statement issued on Friday evening that its naval forces had seized British tanker ship, 'Stena Impero', for violating maritime rules and regulations in the Persian Gulf.

"UK tanker ship, Stena Impero, has been detained by the vessels unit of the IRGC Navy's First Naval Zone at the request of the Ports and Maritime Organization's office of Hormuzgan province for disregarding international maritime rules and regulations as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz this afternoon," the statement by the IRGCN public relations said.

The statement said the ship had been escorted to the Iranian coastal waters in Hormuzgan province and its control had been transferred to the Ports and Maritime Organization for further legal procedures and investigations.

A statement by Stena Impero shipping firm said there were 23 crew onboard the UK ship, adding that there had been no report on any harm or injury to the crew members since the vessel came under detention by the Iranian forces.

Media reports said the tanker was heading to Saudi Arabia's port of Al-Jobail from the UAE port of Fujairah when it was detained by the IRGC.

Director-General of the Ports and Maritime Organization's office in Hurmuzgan province said he filed a request for the seizure of the British tanker by the IRGCN after reports on its risky moves that made the vessel prone to accident.

Meantime, sources told FNA that the British ship had switched off its tracking systems in violation of maritime rules and regulations and was making an entry from the exit point of the Strait of Hormuz in the South, disregarding the established procedures that require all entries be made through the Northern pass.

Also, the UK owned tanker, MV Mesdar, operating under Liberian flag was stopped by Iran's naval patrols in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday evening after it started oil leaks in the waterway.

The ship was sent back to the international waters to continue its voyage after a short time and after it was warned to show full respect for environmental regulations and harmless navigation.

Senior military officials also rejected reports by some western media outlets claiming that the Liberian-flagged tanker had been seized, stressing that 'Stena Impero' was the only foreign ship under Iranian custody.

In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized an Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria in violation of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus. Washington has applauded the move, hailing it as a sign that Europe is on board with the US' unilateral sanctions against Iran.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the illegal move of London and described it as tantamount to piracy. Tehran accused the UK of doing Washington's bidding and helping the US attempt to stifle the Islamic Republic's oil exports, rejecting London's claim that the supertanker was carrying crude for Syria.

The attorney general announced on Friday that Gibraltar's supreme court has ruled that the Iranian tanker seized by Britain's Royal Marines can be detained for 30 more days. The court's decision came a day after a senior Gibraltar's official described as constructive talks with Iran, raising hopes that the tanker would be released imminently.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has slammed Britain's illegal seizure of the oil tanker, warning London of a pending response to the seizure of the supertanker that he referred to as a case of "piracy".

On Thursday, naval forces of the IRGC seized a foreign ship smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf, according to a statement by the public relations office of the IRGC Navy's first zone. The foreign vessel was smuggling a million liters of fuel from Iran and was seized in Iranian waters South of Lark island.

Yet, a statement issued by the IRGC on Thursday denied that any other foreign ship had been seized during the last week as claimed by the western media.

The statement reiterated that the ship had been seized for "smuggling fuel from Iran", and no other reason.

The recent moves by foreign powers in the Middle East such as US sanctions on Tehran's oil, UK seizure of Iranian supertanker, as well as, "sabotage operations" on oil ships have heightened tensions in the region and leading into turmoil in the international energy market, affecting global crude prices in recent months.

Source: Fars News Agency