MOSCOW (Reuters) - Seven of the 23 crew members of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero that was seized by Iran in July reached Dubai on Thursday after Tehran agreed to their release, a Russian official said.
The Swedish-owned Stena Impero was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.
An official with Russia’s embassy in Tehran said the seven crew members — one Russian, one Latvian and five Indian nationals — obtained their visas in Tehran on Wednesday and then flew to Dubai.
The remaining 16 crew members will remain onboard the ship “until the fate of the tanker itself is decided”, the Russian official said.
The Stena Impero’s 23 crew are of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality, the vessel’s Swedish owner Stena Bulk has said.
Stena Bulk separately confirmed on Thursday that the seven crew members had been released and were traveling to a safe location.
“We continue to work tirelessly to obtain the release of the remaining crew onboard the Stena Impero and will continue to provide all possible support to their families during this difficult time,” Erik Hanell, Stena Bulk’s chief executive and president, said in a statement.
“As we have stated previously; from the information we have, there is no current evidence the Stena Impero breached any maritime rules or regulations.”
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 U.S. efforts to set up a coalition and says countries in the region can protect waterways and work towards 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.
Reporting by Maria Vasilyeva in Moscow and Jonathan Saul in London; Editing by Catherine Evans