Stena Bulk Says Spoke to Seized Tanker’s Crew, All Are Safe and Well

STOCKHOLM, July 24 (Reuters) – All 23 crew on a British oil tanker seized last week by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz are safe and well, the vessel’s Swedish operator Stena Bulk said on Wednesday after speaking to them.

The Stena Impero had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia when it suddenly changed course after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf and headed towards Iran, captured by Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards.

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Iran said on Saturday it had seized the Stena Impero because it had collided with a fishing boat. Stena Bulk said it had received no evidence of such a collision.

“We had direct contact with the crew on board the vessel last night by telephone and they’re all okay and in good health and they’re getting good cooperation with the Iranians on board,” Stena Bulk spokesman Pat Adamson said.

He added that the vessel’s captain had said there was sufficient food on board and that crew members had communicated with their families.

Stena Bulk CEO Erik Hanell said he hoped Tuesday’s contact was “a first sign that we will soon see more positive progress from the Iranian authorities”.

Britain described the seizure as piracy and called on Monday for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait, a strategic waterway for global oil transportation.

Britain’s proposal won initial support from France, Italy and Denmark, three senior EU diplomats said.

Sweden said on Wednesday it was concerned by the developments and that it was holding talks with Iran, Britain and others to try and resolve the situation.

“Sweden is concerned by developments in the Strait of Hormuz …. Given the very serious situation in the region, it is also important that the measures taken help to ease tensions,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“Sweden is conducting a dialogue at various levels with the UK, Iran and other relevant stakeholders, including Stena, and we hope to find a resolution to the issues and de-escalate the tense situation.”

Adamson said all the appropriate governments and embassies were supporting and helping Stena Bulk, including home countries of the Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino crew members.

He said the next step for the operator would be to try and get somebody on board to check up on the crew, but that he had no timeline for when the crew might be repatriated.

“We haven’t had any direct response from the Iranian authorities about visiting the vessel as yet but we hope we will have that soon,” he said.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Stockholm Editing by Mark Heinrich)