Iran has released nine of the 12 Indian crew members on board the seized Panamanian-flagged oil tanker M/T Riah, after claims that the ship was transporting around 1 million liters of smuggled fuel.
As the Indian Ministry for External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kuma informed, the nine sailors were released and are now on their way to India soon. He added that India’s mission in Iran has requested the concerned Iranian authorities for the release of remaining crew members.
As CNN reports, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had responded to distress calls from the ship but when they searched it, they found out it was a fuel smuggling operation, so they seized the tanker.
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This move comes after Iran granted consular access to 18 Indian crew members of another vessel, the seized British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero. According to Iran’s Ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, similar access will be granted to another 5 crew from other nationalities.
What is more, Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani hinted that his country might be willing to release the British-flagged oil tanker ‘Stena Impero’ it seized, if UK releases the detained Iranian tanker, Grace 1, which was seized off Gibraltar.
Hassan Rouhani said during a speech in the weekly cabinet session, that Iran does not want to continue tense relationships with Europe.
He specifically stated that if European countries are:
Committed to international frameworks and abandon some actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proper response from Iran
In light of these incidents, the International Bargaining Forum (IBF) has started discussions on vessels transiting through the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz.
Namely, JNG’s Chairman, Capt. Koichi Akamine, said that seafarers working on board merchant vessels that should have been accorded the right of freedom of innocent passage, have been caught up in the situation, causing great distress to them and their families.
In addition, speaking on behalf of the ITF, David Heindel, Chairman of the Seafarers Section, noted that such exposure of seafarers working on merchant vessels to life and safety risks is totally unacceptable. He added that he is concerned regarding seafarers’ welfare, as all constituents of the IBF are.
For this reason, he called for a diplomatic solution to the situation and to de-escalate tensions in the region, urging governments to use maximum efforts to have the crew of the Stena Impero released. He also urged governments to ensure safe passage of commercial ships in the Straits of Hormuz.
Moreover, the parties of the IBF have pledged to monitor the situation over the coming week and re-group for discussions next week.