UK Tanker Seized By Iran Released After Two Months In Captivity

The British-flagged Stena Impero tanker was released Friday after more than two months of being moored outside Iran's Bandar Abbas port. 

Stena Impero was seized in July by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations two weeks after British naval forces detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar.

"The ship is on the move," Erik Hanell, the chief executive of the ship's owner, Sweden's Stena Bulk, told Reuters in a text message. "We will comment further when the ship reaches international waters."

According to Refinitiv tracking data, the vessel is heading for Dubai's Port Rashid in the United Arab Emirates. The automatic identification system, an automated tracking system that uses transponders on the ship, indicates the vessel is "underway using the engine," traveling at 12 knots, and about 155 miles from Port Rashid. 

The vessel is likely to reach its destination in about a day, is expected to make more headlines when the vessel hits international waters and arrives at Port Rashid. 

The Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran in Hormozgan Province said in a statement the vessel left the Bandar Abbas port early Friday and was heading towards international waters. The statement added that a judicial file was still open on the ship. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at a news conference Thursday in New York during the United Nations' annual gathering of world leaders, told reporters he expected Stena Impero to be released after the completion of legal procedures. 

"The tanker is going through the final court proceedings. I predict that it will be released," Rouhani said at the UN on Thursday. 

Stena Bulk said Wednesday there were zero negotiations with Iran and wasn't informed of any formal charges against the crew. 

"We haven't been accused of anything," Stena Bulk Chief Executive Erik Hanell said in a telephone interview. "Not through any formal letter or anything else to the company."

Relations between the US and Iran have become tenser since Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the "Iran deal," in May 2018. 

The abandoning of the Iran deal resulted in the Trump administration imposing heavy economic sanctions on Tehran, a move that has paralyzed the country's economy. 

Earlier this week we reported how the US had imposed new sanctions on Chinese entities for "knowingly engaging" in transporting Iranian oil - the move is part of the Trump administration's "maximum economic pressure campaign against the Iranian regime and those who enable its destabilizing behavior," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a press release on Wednesday.

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