India, Philippines seek release of sailors on seized British-flagged tanker

The Philippines said it would ask Iran to free a Filipino crew member of a British-flagged tanker seized by Tehran. (File photo: Reuters)

The Indian and Philippine governments are working to get Iran to release nationals from the two countries who were on board a British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran in the Gulf.

India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said on Saturday its diplomats were “in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation” of the 18 Indian crew members on the Stena Impero.

Manila's Department of Foreign Affairs also said its ambassador to Tehran is in contact with Iranian authorities to ensure the one Filipino crew member’s safety and immediate release.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said there have been no reports of injuries among the crew.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency has said the other crew members consisted of three Russians and a Latvian.

The Swedish-owned Stena Impero was seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday for colliding with a fishing boat, Iranian authorities said, as tensions mount in a key waterway for the world’s oil supplies.

The agency that supplied the Filipino crew member told Manila there were no reported injuries as the vessel headed for the Iranian coast on Friday, the department said in a statement.

“(Philippines) Ambassador to Iran Fred Santos is contacting Iranian authorities to seek assurance that the Filipino seafarer is safe and will be released soon,” it said, adding the unidentified crew member’s family has been notified.

Iranian authorities said the tanker has anchored off the port of Bandar Abbas with all its 23 crew aboard.

Britain said a second ship had also been seized in the Gulf – the Liberian-flagged Mesdar.

The Mesdar’s British owner said its ship had been temporarily boarded by armed personnel, but was free to leave and that all crew were “safe and well.”

Tensions in the Gulf have soared in recent weeks, with US President Donald Trump in June calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed a US drone, and blaming Iran for a series of tanker attacks.

Washington has been ratcheting up sanctions against Tehran after the US unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 deal under which Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear development activities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:00 - GMT 07:00
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