Seven Crewmembers from Seized MSC Aries Depart Iran

MSC containership
Seven of the 25 crewmembers on the MSC Aries left Iran (file photo)

Published May 10, 2024 12:52 PM by The Maritime Executive


After weeks of being held in Iran and promises that the crew of the seized containership MSC Aries would be released, the governments of Portugal, India, and Pakistan confirmed that the first seven crewmembers had left the ship. Iran last week had said all the crew would be free to leave if the captain joined them and now it is being reported the crew will be released when their contractual obligations are completed.

Portugal as the flag state of the containership confirmed that seven people of the 24 still aboard the vessel had departed. They said specifically that the first release consisted of five Indian citizens, one Filipino, and one Estonian, who was the sole European Union citizen on board.

“The Portuguese government welcomes this development, for which it had strongly advocated for. Nonetheless, it reiterates to the Iranian Government that international law requires the immediate release of the remaining crew members and of the ship MSC Aries. Portugal will continue to make every effort to ensure that these international obligations are fully met,” the Portuguese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

India’s embassy in Iran posted a message on X (Twitter) confirming that its five citizens had departed Iran last night and were making their way home to India. Previously, they had arranged for the sole cadet, a female, to travel home to India where she arrived on April 19, six days after the vessel was seized.

The consulate previously said that it had been able to arrange a visit to the crew and that they were in good health. They are continuing to call for the immediate release of the additional 11 Indian citizens aboard the MSC Aries.

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said that its one crewmember was expected to arrive back in the Philippines today, Friday, May 10. They said they are working for the release of the three remaining Filipinos aboard the ship. “We hope for their eventual speedy return to their homes and families,” today’s statement said.

The vessel also has crewmembers from Russia and Pakistan. Iran had promised the Pakistan Foreign Ministry that it would repatriate its crewmembers while it was planning for a state visit to the country. However, there was no word on when these crewmembers might be released.

Iran reiterated its assertion that the MSC Aries broke international maritime law. They accused the vessel of turning off its AIS transmissions while in Iranian territorial waters and endangering the safety of navigation. The official position is that the vessel is detained under judicial review. 

The seizure is widely seen as a retaliatory move against Israel coming shortly before Iran unleashed missiles and drones targeting Israel. The MSC Aries operates under a long-term charter to MSC but is owned by affiliates of Zodiac Maritime in which Eyal Ofer is the lead investor.