Seven of the 23 crew on a detained British-flagged oil tanker have been released by Iran, the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
Although the ship had contravened local regulations, the authorities had “no problem with the captain and crew,” ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to news agency Isna.
“They are free and can return to their own countries,” he said.
The seven crew members – from India, Russia and Latvia – were selected by the captain of the Stena Impero tanker, Mousavi said earlier.
As for the tanker itself, he said that a court in the port city of Bandar Abbas would decide on its fate.
The tanker is one cause of a major flare-up in tensions with Britain and the United States.
Iran impounded the vessel in the Strait of Hormuz in mid-July, and the Panama-flagged MT Riah about two weeks later.
On July 4, an Iranian oil tanker was captured off Gibraltar on suspicion of violating EU sanctions. It was released after more than a month and its current whereabouts is not clear.
The Sweden-based shipping company that operates the Stena Impero welcomed the move to release non-essential personnel from the vessel.
Stena Bulk chief executive Erik Hanell said however he had “no information” about a possible release of the tanker.
Sixteen crew members were to remain on board in line with the so-called Minimum Safe Manning Certificate (MSMC) that is issued by the flag state and sets the minimum number of crew needed to safely operate the vessel.
Last month, Hanell met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during the diplomat’s tour of the Nordic region.
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