18 Indians, Other Crew Members of Seized UK-Flagged Tanker Safe and in Good Health, Says Iran


Dubai: Iran said on Sunday that all 23 crew members of the seized British-flagged Stena Impero tanker were "safe and in good health", the head of the Ports and Maritime Organisation of Iran in Hormozgan Province told state TV.

"All the 23 crew members are aboard the ship are safe and in good health in Bandar Abbas port," said Allahmorad Afifipour.

Britain has denounced Iran's seizure of the oil tanker in the Gulf on Friday as a "hostile act", rejecting Tehran's explanation that it had seized the vessel because it had been involved in an accident.

The crew are from India, Latvia, the Philippines and Russia.

India said on Saturday it was in touch with Tehran to secure the release of 18 of its nationals working on a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.

Raveesh Kumar, spokesman for Ministry of External Affairs, told AFP that 18 of its nationals were on the ship and said New Delhi was "in touch with the government of Iran to secure (their) early release and repatriation".

The Philippines also said it would ask Iran to free a Filipino crew member on the Swedish-owned Stena Impero which was seized on Friday, as tensions mount in a key waterway for the world's oil supplies.

The tanker was impounded off Bandar Abbas port for breaking "international maritime rules" after colliding with a fishing boat, Iranian authorities said.

Iranian authorities said the tanker has anchored off Bandar Abbas with all its 23 crew aboard.

Britain said a second ship had also been seized in the Persian Gulf — the Liberian-flagged Mesdar.

The Mesdar's British owner said the vessel had been temporarily boarded by armed personnel, but was free to leave and that all crew were "safe and well".

Tensions in the Gulf have soared in recent weeks, with US President Donald Trump in June calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed a US drone, and blaming the country for a series of tanker attacks.

Washington has been ratcheting up sanctions against Tehran after the US unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 deal under which Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear development activities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.