Iran detained Indian ship for 26 days based on false alarm

Last Updated 23 September 2013, 07:06 IST

Though Iran detained Indian ship MT Desh Shanti last month for allegedly causing pollution in the Persian Gulf, the oil-slick it was accused of leaving behind was actually set off by another vessel sailing at a distance of 115 nautical miles from the Shipping Corporation of India’s (SCI) tanker.

As New Delhi pieces together the chain of events leading to the detention of MT Desh Shanti at Bandar Abbas port for 26 days, it has now emerged that the July 30 pollution alert, which the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) cited to justify its action against the ship, wrongly blamed the SCI’s tanker for the oil slick that allegedly spread over 10 nautical miles.

 Intense diplomatic contacts between New Delhi and Tehran led to the release of MT Desh Shanti on September 6, although the SCI had to submit a Letter of Undertaking to Iran’s Port and Maritime Organisation, committing to pay penalties if it was proved that the tanker had indeed caused pollution.

The IRGC detained MT Desh Shanti on August 12 after the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre (MEMAC), which keeps tab on oil and natural gas spills in the Persian Gulf, issued an alert, blaming the ship owned by the SCI of “discharging oil intentionally” on July 30.

The MEMAC cited the location of MT Desh Shanti at 18:45 hours GMT on July 30 at 26 degree 53 minutes north latitude and 52 degree 32 minutes east longitude. According to the alert issued by the MEMAC, the ship was at that time 30 nautical miles east of Iranian island of Jaziraht Ye Lavan and was sailing on the 117 degree course at a speed of nine knots.

The MT Desh Shanti was in fact at that time located at 85 nautical miles west of Jaziraht Ye Lavan and was headed in the opposite direction towards Basrah port of Iraq. It was sailing on course 298 degree at a speed of 13 knots.

Sources told Deccan Herald that huge difference between the actual location, course and speed of the MT Desh Shanti and those cited in the MEMAC alert clearly indicated that the pollution watchdog based at Manama in Bahrain had in fact been tracking another ship.

New Delhi is set to use the discrepancies to prove that the allegation against the ship was false and possible result of a goof-up.

Though Tehran initially claimed that the ship was causing oil-spill, New Delhi pointed out that it was not carrying crude oil on the day.

(Published 23 September 2013, 07:06 IST)

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