British-flagged tanker Stena Impero reaches international waters

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The British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which had been detained by Iran for over two months reached international waters on Friday, according to its Swedish owner.

The ship began moving from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas toward international waters at 9 a.m. Iran time on Friday, the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran said.

The judicial file on the vessel is still open and the process of looking into “violations” committed by the ship continues, the agency said in a statement.

The Stena Impero was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.

The Stena has set a new destination for Port Rashid in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, about 250 km away, the tracking data showed. At normal tanker speed, it would reach within half a day.

Iran’s foreign ministry had said on Wednesday that a lifting of the detention order had been finalized, but that an investigation into the vessel was ongoing.

The ship’s owner, Stena Bulk of Sweden, later said it was not in negotiations with Iran and was not aware of any formal charges against the crew or the company.

Iran had earlier freed seven of the ship’s 23 crew members.

Iran’s seizure of the Stena Impero on July 19 had ratcheted up tensions in the region following attacks in May and June on other merchant vessels in Gulf waters which Washington blamed on Tehran. Iran has denied responsibility.

Relations between the United States and Iran have become more strained since Washington withdrew last year from a global pact to rein in Tehran’s nuclear programme and imposed sanctions on the country aimed at shutting down Iranian oil exports.

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