Iran to release seven crew members of detained British tanker

An aerial view shows a speedboat of Iran's Revolutionary Guard moving around the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz by the Guard, in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. (File/AP)
Updated 04 September 2019

Iran to release seven crew members of detained British tanker

  • The remaining 16 crew members would remain onboard to operate the vessel
  • The Swedish-owned Stena Impero was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz

DUBAI/LONDON: Iran will free seven crew members of the detained British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, Iranian state television reported on Wednesday, although the vessel’s owner said it had yet to receive any official confirmation of the release date.
The Swedish-owned Stena Impero was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told the TV that the seven, who include Indian citizens, were allowed to leave the tanker on humanitarian grounds and could leave Iran soon.
“We have no problem with the crew and the captain and the issue is violations that the vessel committed,” Mousavi said.
The Stena Impero’s 23 seafarers are of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality, the vessel’s Swedish owner Stena Bulk has said.
“We are very pleased that for seven crew members their ordeal may soon be over, and they may return to their families, however we cautiously await official confirmation of their release date,” Erik Hanell, Stena Bulk’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.
“We view this communication as a positive step on the way to the release of all the remaining crew, which has always been our primary concern and focus.”
The company said the remaining 16 crew members would remain onboard to safely operate the vessel.
VESSELS ATTACKED
Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping trade association, said Iran had to immediately release the remaining mariners once the seven crew had been freed.
“The ship was in international waters when it was detained and was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations,” Sanguinetti said.
“The Chamber will continue to work with the UK Government to ensure the free passage of ships through the Strait of Hormuz.”
Several international merchant vessels have been attacked in the Gulf this year in incidents that have rocked world commodity trading. Washington blames Iran, which denies the accusation.
Iran has denounced US efforts to set up a coalition and says countries in the region can protect waterways and work toward signing a non-aggression pact.
The seizure of the Adrian Darya 1 Iranian tanker exacerbated tensions between Tehran and the West that have been growing since the United States last year quit an international accord curbing Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed economic sanctions.
The Revolutionary Guards said separately on Wednesday that its navy detained seven trawling vessels with 24 foreign crew near the mouth of the Gulf for fishing too close to Iran’s coast and other violations, the ISNA news agency reported.
A Guards statement did not give the crews’ nationalities, but Iranian media have often carried reports of complaints from local fishermen about Chinese ships active in bottom trawling, which involves dragging a large net across the sea floor.


Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

Updated 49 min 31 sec ago

Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

  • The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17
  • The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis

BEIRUT: Protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon on Friday as unprecedented demonstrations against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence entered their fourth month.
The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has resurged this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis.
No progress seemed to have been made on a final lineup, which protesters demand be made up solely of independent experts and empty of traditional political parties.
In central Beirut, dozens of protesters Friday stood between parked cars blocking a key thoroughfare linking the city’s east and west.
“We blocked the road with cars because it’s something they can’t move,” Marwan Karam said.
The protester condemned what he regarded as efforts to form yet another government representing the usual carve-up of power between the traditional parties.
“We don’t want a government of masked political figures,” the 30-year-old told AFP. “Any such government will fall. We won’t give it any chance in the street.”
Forming a new cabinet is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the various political parties and a multitude of religious confessions.
Nearby, Carlos Yammine, 32, said he did not want yet another “cake-sharing government.”
“What we have asked for from the start of the movement is a reduced, transitional, emergency government of independents,” he said, leaning against his car.


Elsewhere, demonstrators closed roads including in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli, though some were later reopened, the National News Agency said.
The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis that Lebanon has witnessed since its 1975-1990 civil war.
The protests this week saw angry demonstrators attack banks following the imposition of sharp curbs on cash withdrawals to stem a liquidity crisis.
On Thursday night, protesters vandalized three more banks in the capital’s Hamra district, smashing their glass fronts and graffitiing ATMs, an AFP photographer said.
Earlier, Lebanon’s security services released most of the 100-plus protesters detained over the previous 48 hours, lawyers said.
Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned the arrests and the response of security forces to protests outside a police station on Wednesday night demanding detainees be released.
“The unacceptable level of violence against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters on January 15 calls for a swift independent and transparent investigation,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the rights watchdog.
Over the past few months, the Lebanese pound — long pegged to the US dollar at 1,507 — has fallen in value on the unofficial market to around 2,500.
The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to a half if the political crisis is not remedied fast.