Stena Bulk Presses for Release of Tanker's Crew

Stena Impero (Stena Bulk)

Published Aug 6, 2019 7:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, Swedish tanker operator Stena Bulk protested the continued detention of the UK-flagged Stena Impero by Iranian authorities, describing the action as "unacceptable and unjustifiable." The vessel has been in Iranian custody for 19 days. 

“We are maintaining limited communication with the crew onboard and although they remain in good health considering the circumstances, we continue to be concerned about their welfare given the amount of time they have been in confinement," said Stena Bulk president and CEO Erik Hanell. “Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management continue to work with all appropriate authorities, including UK and other national governments, to secure the release of the crew."

Hanell emphasized that the prolonged detention is difficult for the crew and their families, and said that Stena Bulk is pressing for national authorities to make their release a high priority.

Stena has not yet been allowed to visit the vessel, nor has it received an answer from Iranian officials as to whether it might at some future date. However, an embassy official from the Finnish consulate in Tehran went onboard the ship on Saturday and found that the crew was in good health. 

The majority of the Impero's crew are Indian nationals, and India's external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Friday that his ministry is working to bring them home. "We are focused on the early release and repatriation of all 18 Indian crew members of Stena Impero," he said in a Twitter post. "Officers of our Embassy in Tehran have met them and they seem to be in good health with adequate supplies. We remain in constant contact with Iranian authorities to resolve this." 

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-controlled VLCC Grace 1 on July 4, and the Impero's detention is widely seen as a retaliatory measure targeting British shipping. However, while the Impero is flagged in the UK and has a British technical manager, she is Swedish owned and operated, and none of her crew are British nationals.