Friday, September 6, 2019

Swedish Bulk Tanker Hijacked by Iranians Remains in Captivity Fifty Days After Seizure

As Some Crew Freed so Balance Sufficient to Run the Ship Remain as Hostages
Shipping News Feature

IRAN – Quite what the Iranian authorities hope to achieve by their patently illegal detention of the Swedish owned 50,000 dwt bulk tanker Stena Impero, which was seized by its armed military forces some fifty days ago, remains a mystery to all concerned. This week five Indians, one Latvian and one Russian crew were allowed to leave and arrived, apparently safe and well, in Dubai.

Although the Iranians apparently hijacked the vessel in a fit of pique after Britain detained the oil tanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar (herself registered in Antigua & Barbuda) for alleged sanction busting, the Stena Bulk vessel, despite her UK flag status, has no other connection with Britain, and the authorities there seem less than concerned about her fate, or indeed that of her non-native crew.

Meanwhile, in order to satisfy the vessel's Minimum Safe Manning Certificate (MSMC), which is issued by the flag state (in this case Britain) the remaining sixteen crew of the Impero, 13 Indians, two Russians and one Filipino, and who between them have sufficient rank as required under the flag regulations to safely operate the vessel, seemingly must remain on board.

The ship remains anchored in Bandar Abbas despite the best efforts of owners Stena Bulk whose CEO, Erik Hanell, met with Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif in Stockholm last month to discuss the case. Meanwhile John Green, Director of Development for Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea), the largest charity in the world providing welfare support to seafarers, said the case should be central to discussions next week at the London International Shipping Week (LISW 2019).

Martin Foley, Stella Maris National Director commented that the Iranians had failed to produce any evidence whatsoever that the Stena Impero breached any maritime rules or regulations, adding:

“As world news moves on it is vital that the plight of the crew of the Stena Impero is not forgotten. The fact that it is now 50 days since their seizure is shocking for both the seafarers themselves and their families. Not only is the ongoing detention for this crew and their families a great injustice for them, but our chaplains around the world have been hearing of the heightened anxiety of the families of other tanker crews as to whether this could happen to them.”