COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The head of the Swedish shipping firm that owns the British-flagged oil tanker held by Iran since July said Tuesday the Stena Impero was still in Iranian waters, a day after Iran said the vessel was free to move.
Erik Hanell, CEO of Stena Bulk, told The Associated Press that “we know nothing as to why she is still there.”
On Monday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told journalists that legal proceedings against the tanker had ended. The Stena Impero has been kept in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas since July 19.
“Based on a friendly approach that allows forgiving mistakes, ground for freedom of the tanker has been paved and it can move,” Rabiei said.
Iran seized the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world’s oil passes. The raid saw commandos rappel down onto the vessel via helicopter carrying assault rifles, dramatic images later replayed on state television.
Earlier this month, Iran released seven of the ship’s crew members. Sixteen remain on board.
The seizure came after authorities in Gibraltar seized an Iranian tanker carrying $130 million in crude oil on suspicion of it breaking European Union sanctions on Syria.
Gibraltar later released the tanker, then called the Grace 1, after it said Iran promised the ship wouldn’t go to Syria. That ship, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, now sits off the Syrian coast, angering Britain. Iran hasn’t said who purchased its 2.1 million barrels of crude oil.
The ship seizures came after months of heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf, sparked by President Donald Trump’s decision over a year ago to withdraw from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and impose crippling sanctions on its vital oil trade. Iran since has begun breaking terms of the deal.