18 Indians aboard British oil tanker seized by Iran

New Delhi in talks to rescue trapped nationals aboard ship; EU expresses 'concern'

An image grab taken from a video released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on July 18, 2019, reportedly shows the Panamanian-flagged tanker Riah, that was detained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, in the highly sensitive Strait of Hormuz. - Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they had detained a "foreign tanker" and its 12 crew for allegedly smuggling fuel, the latest incident in a tense standoff in the Gulf.  (Photo by STRINGER / IRINN / AFP)

Eighteen Indian nationals, including the captain, were identified amongst the crew of twenty-three people on board a British-flagged tanker that was seized by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly breaking "international maritime rules" and for colliding with a fishing vessel. 

According to latest reports, the vessel named 'Stena Impero' is now at anchored off the port of Bandar Abbas with all its crew aboard. 

"The British tanker Stena Impero collided with a fishing boat on its route and, according to law, after an accident it is necessary that the cause of the accident are investigated," said Allah-Morad Afifipoor, director-general of the Hormozgan province port and maritime organisation.

Following the collision, those on board the fishing boat "contacted the British vessel but didn't receive any response", he said. As the vessel did not respond to the fishing boat, they informed the Hormozgan port and maritime office according to the legal procedures, he added

The EU expressed its deep concern on over the seizure of the tanker, saying it brought risks of deepening tensions. "In an already tense situation, this development brings risks of further escalation and undermines ongoing work to find a way to resolve current tensions," the statement said, according to AFP.

Eighteen crew were Indian (including the captain) and the rest were from the Philippines, Latvia and Russia, PTI reported.

"There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality. There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus. We are in close contact with both the UK and Swedish government authorities to resolve this situation and we are liaising closely with our seafarers’ families," Erik Hanell, president and chief executive of Stena Bulk, had said earlier in a statement.

India said it was in touch with Iran to secure the release of the Indians on board the oil tanker.

"We are ascertaining further details on the incident. Our Mission is in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to a question on the detention of Indian crew members.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Friday it had seized the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking "international maritime rules".

Britain said Iran had seized two vessels in the Gulf, but the British owner of one of the tankers, the Liberian-flagged Mesdar, said it had been temporarily boarded by armed personnel, but was free to leave and that all crew were "safe and well."

According to an Iranian news agency, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard said that the tanker was seized for breaking three regulations: shutting down its GPS, going through the exit of the Strait of Hormuz, and ignoring the warning.

(With inputs from agencies)

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