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Indian tanker allowed to leave after 26 days in detention

New Delhi, Sep 7, 2013 (PTI) 13:48 IST
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Having been in detention for nearly 26 days at Iran's Bandar Abbas Port, Indian oil tanker MT Desh Shanti has finally been allowed to leave, two days after the central Iranian authorities ordered its release.

"MT Desh Shanti was finally released at 2345 hrs (IST) on September 6th and the vessel sailed out from Bander Abbas after receiving her documents," official sources told PTI today.

The vessel, having a capacity to carry 1,40,000 tonnes of crude, was detained by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Persian Gulf while carrying crude from Basrah in Iraq on August 12 citing environmental and pollution concerns and taken to Bandar Abbas.

Meanwhile, a top Shipping Ministry official said, "She sailed last night after being finally released from detention. We have not paid anything. Only normal LoU (an undertaking as per practice)."

After over a three-week-long stand-off, Iran had ordered release of the tanker but it was not allowed to leave with local authorities at Bandar Abbas claiming that they had not received the order.

India had strongly objected to the detention, saying it was a "colourable" exercise in transgression of UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea and warning of serious ramifications.Objecting to pollution charges, India had said the vessel on a "innocent passage" from Basrah to Visakhapatnam was not voluntarily destined at any Iranian port and was "forcibly diverted" to Iranian waters and then subject to PSC inspection.

In a strongly-worded letter to Iran, India had made it clear that Port State Control (PSC) is a legitimate mechanism to be utilised prudently and "any arbitrary enforcement of this well-established regime can have serious ramifications on the smooth conduct of international maritime transport and may send alarming messages to the shipping community...."

The letter to the Iranian Director General, Safety and Marine Protection, said "we, the Indian administration, strongly object to this colourable exercise of power and remind your administration that your act in this case was in transgression of the UNCLOS'82 and several other international conventions."

Last week, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh had summoned the Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari here to lodge a strong protest against the detention of the tanker and sought its "unconditional" release.

The development comes at a time when India, the world's fourth-largest oil importer, has significantly reduced its import from Iran following severe financial sanctions from the Western countries against the Islamic republic.

Iranians have been maintaining that the detention was "purely a technical and non-political issue".

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