25 SEPT 2019
The UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero is now free to depart the anchorage at Bandar Abbas, Iranian officials said on Monday. The Impero has been in Iranian custody since July 19, when Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members boarded her and ordered her crew to change course.
“The British flagged tanker ‘Stena Impero,’ pursuant to the completion of the judicial and legal process, is now free to leave,” said Iranian ambassador to the UK Hamid Baeidinejad in a social media update Monday.
The Impero’s release has been pending for some time: Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told Iran’s IRNA News earlier this month that her “legal procedures” were nearly over.
As of Monday night, the Impero had not yet resumed broadcasting AIS, according to commercial tracking services. Owner Stena Bulk has not changed its running update page on the vessel’s status since September 5, when Iranian officials released seven members of the Stena Impero’s crew.
Commandos from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized the UK-flagged Stena Impero as she transited the Strait of Hormuz on July 19. The UK Royal Marines conducted a similar seizure of the Iranian VLCC Adrian Darya 1 (ex name Grace 1) on July 4, and the Impero’s detention was widely seen as a retaliatory measure targeting British shipping. Iran denies any connection between the two tankers’ circumstances.
The Adrian Darya 1 has since arrived off the coast of Syria, where she is expected to deliver her cargo despite EU and U.S. sanctions. The U.S. State Department has announced that the Darya’s cargo has been delivered, but satellite image and open source analysis by consultancy Tanker Trackers shows that she was still in laden condition as recently as Saturday.