03:34 EST, 7 May 2015
03:34 EST, 7 May 2015
By Parisa Hafezi
ANKARA, May 7 (Reuters) – Iran has released a
Marshall-Islands flagged container ship and its crew which were
seized last month in one of the world’s major oil shipping
lanes, the Students News Agency ISNA quoted a foreign ministry
official as saying on Thursday.
The vessel was diverted on April 28 by Iranian patrol boats
in the Strait of Hormuz, prompting the United States to send
vessels to monitor the situation and to accompany U.S.-flagged
vessels passing through the strait.
“The Maersk container ship was released and it has left
Iranian territorial waters,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman
Marzieh Afkham told ISNA.
The Maersk incident coincided with heightened tension
between regional arch-rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia over the
civil war in Yemen, in which they support opposing sides.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA, citing an informed source,
said the Iranian Ports and Shipping Organization would issue a
statement in a few hours on the details of the release of the
Danish shipping giant Maersk had insisted on the release of
the vessel and its 24 crew members.
Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company,
chartered the ship, which according to ship operator Rickmers
Shipmanagement is owned by undisclosed private investors.
A spokesman with Rickmers Shipmanagement said on Thursday:
“We have noted same reports but have no official word on the
The IRNA report did not give details on whether a years-old
debt case had been settled, as demanded by Iran for the release
of the ship.
Afkham said on Wednesday that the negotiations between “the
private complainant and the other party were going on”.
The U.S. Navy had quietly stopped accompanying commercial
ships on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said,
noting that the original order to carry out the mission had only
been for a brief period, which had ended.
U.S. Navy ships started accompanying U.S.-flagged commercial
vessels through the Strait on April 30, a decision taken
following the Maersk Tigris’ seizure and after Iranian ships
shadowed the U.S.-flagged Maersk Kensington on April 24.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Saul in London, Writing by
Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Ralph Boulton)
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