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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tanker Trackers: British Vessel Detained by Iran Receives Fuel for Journey Home

By Michael Lipin September 23, 2019

A global tanker tracking company says a British-flagged oil tanker detained by Iran since July has begun receiving fuel for its return journey after Iranian officials said it was free to leave the country's waters.

In a Twitter post Monday, TankerTrackers.com said it had received data showing the Stena Impero had begun a ship-to-ship (STS) transfer with another vessel near the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas "to receive fuel to power the engines ahead of her homebound journey."

TankerTrackers.com, one of the few companies monitoring global oil shipments, added that the Stena Impero's AIS transponder was still offline, indicating it was not yet ready to depart the Iranian port.

Earlier Monday, Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian ambassador to Britain, tweeted that the vessel, owned by Swedish company Stena Bulk, was "free to leave … pursuant to the completion of the judicial and legal process." Iranian state media had cited several other officials as making similar announcements a day earlier.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Stena Impero on July 19 in Omani waters, accusing it of failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.

The Iranian move came two weeks after British forces seized an Iranian oil tanker in waters off the British territory of Gibraltar on suspicion of planning to deliver oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

Britain allowed that tanker to leave Gibraltar Aug. 18 after saying it received written assurances that Iran would not deliver the crude to Syria. The vessel, which changed its name from Grace 1 to Adrian Darya 1 upon being released, later sailed to the Syrian port of Tartous, where it has remained anchored.

In a statement to French news agency Agence France-Presse, a British government spokeswoman reiterated London's call on Iran to "immediately release the Stena Impero and her remaining crew who continue to be illegally detained." Iran released seven of the vessel's 23 crew members Sept. 4.

Speaking to Swedish TV network SVT on Sept. 22, Stena Bulk chief executive Erik Hanell said he expected the Stena Impero to be released within hours.

"We understand that the political decision has been taken to release the ship," Hanell said.

By late Monday, the company had not made any further statements on the vessel's situation.

This article originated in VOA's Persian Service.

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