EXCLUSIVE: Maersk Tigris Freed, Leaves Iran’s Waters
– Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham announced on Thursday that the Marshall Islands-flagged ship that was seized by Iranian naval forces at a court order last week, was freed this morning and has left Iran’s waters.
“Today the (Maersk Tigris) ship was released and it left the Iranian territorial waters,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said.
She said all the ship crew members were fully safe and healthy when they left Iran’s waters.
Meantime, Pars Tala’eyeh Oil Products Company officials hoped that the Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization has received “sufficient assurances and a solemn promise” from Maersk Line company for guaranteed compensation of their financial losses as mentioned in the court ruling.
Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari had announced on Tuesday that Maersk Tigris will be freed after its owner, Maersk Line Shipping Co. pays compensation money to the Iranian company that had sued it.
“According to the court ruling issued in the case involving this ship, it will be released after paying the compensation money to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Sayyari said in an interview with the state-run TV.
His remarks came after Managing-Director of Pars Tala’eyeh Oil Products Company Hamidreza Jahanian said Maersk Tigris had been kept in custody because it owed $10mln to his company.
“Unfortunately, a number of containers sent by Pars Tala’eyeh Oil Products Company through the Maersk Line Shipping Co. were not delivered to the customer in Jebel Ali in 2003, which initiated financial disputes between us and Maersk Line Shipping Co. then,” Jahanian told FNA on Saturday.
Since Maersk Line Shipping Co. had some differences with its representative in Iran, it refrained from delivering the goods to the customer and the efforts to pursue the case through the company proved futile, he added.
He said the losses incurred on Pars Tala’eyeh Oil Products Company in that case were estimated at $10mln, and Tala’eyeh Oil Products Company filed lawsuit on the restitution of the carried goods with an Iranian court and the court ruled in favor of the Iranian company.
Jahanian underlined that if Maersk Line Shipping Co. compensates for Pars Tala’eyeh Oil Products Company, the ship will be released, otherwise, the assets and properties on the ship and even the vessel itself will be put up to tender and will be sold to make up for the losses inflicted on the Iranian company.
The Iranian naval forces seized the trade vessel with all its crew in the Persian Gulf last week and immediately took it to Shaheed Bahonar Port in Southern Iran.
After informed sources told FNA that “the ship … has been seized by the Iranian naval forces at the request of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization”, Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (IPMO) Deputy Chief Hadi Haqshenas explained that Maersk Tigris has been engaged in payment disputes with the Iranian Pars Tala’eyeh Oil Products Company for several years.
He said the Iranian company had “started litigation in recent years to sue Maersk Line Shipping Co.”, adding that “after the court of appeal upheld the initial court ruling in the favor of the Iranian company, ordering Maersk Line Shipping Co. to make up for the financial losses of the plaintiff, the decree was sent to IPMO – which is in charge of maritime affairs according to the international laws and regulations – on March 15, 2015 to be put into effect”.
“The IPMO then requested the operational forces to put the court ruling in action,” Haqshenas continued.
Haqshenas’s statements were later repeated in an official statement of the IPMO, where the organization underscored that the seizure was “purely the result of a legal case and not a military development in nature”.
The statement also added that all the moves made with regard to the vessel, including the court proceedings and ruling, “fully comply with the international laws and maritime rules and regulations”.
“The IPMO is no party of interest in this litigation by any means as it has never filed any complaint against the abovementioned (Maersk) company,” the statement emphasized.
“Given the legal nature of the case and considering that the responsibility for the seized vessel falls under the judicial authority now, its release will only be possible through a judicial decree,” it stressed.
The IPMO statement also reiterated that Maersk Co. has been fully briefed about the detailed measures adopted with regard to the vessel and the crew since its seizure in the Strait of Hormuz.
Maersk Co. confirmed last week that the crew is safe. Cor Radings, a spokesman for the ship’s operator, Rickmers Ship Management in Singapore, said the company had been in touch by phone with the crew earlier in the day.
“We have had the confirmation that they are in relatively good condition and safe on board the ship,” he said.
Radings identified the crew members as “mainly from Eastern Europe and Asia.” He said the ship was owned by “private investors” but would not elaborate.
Iranian sources had earlier stated that the crew members were from Britain, Bulgaria, Romania and Myanmar.
International law recognizes Iran that has the lengthiest coastline (more than 2,000km) on the rims of the Persian Gulf as to be in charge of security in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.
In Iran, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy is responsible for protecting security of territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, while the naval forces of the regular army are in charge of security in the Caspian Sea as well as missions in the high seas.