Iran seized British flagged ship Stena Impero on July 19. The Iranian ambassador to the UK and the head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation on Monday announced that the ship was free to go. However, Stena Bulk's Chief Executive, Erik Hanell, pointed out that as late as Wednesday, the ship was awaiting Iranian forces to deboard. The Iranian foreign minister confirmed that the ship has not been released due to an ongoing investigation.
Stena Impero was detained by Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps while crossing the Strait of Hormuz. After being boarded by Iranian troops, the ship was forced to dock at Bandar Abbas. Despite being warned by a British Royal Navy frigate, the Iranian troops forced the ship to dock in Iran.
Hanell claims that the company has not received any formal document regarding the detention of the ship. According to the Swedish owner, there has not been any letter or paperwork sent from Iran explaining the detention. The company is "in the dark" about why the ship has been docked at Bandar Abbas.
Abbas Mousavi, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson, tweeted that the ship had been detained for violations and for causing damage to the environment. Mousavi further claimed that both the captain and the owner of the ship had signed an agreement which allows Iran to detain the ship until the investigations are over. These claims are in direct conflict with the statements Hanell gave to Reuters.
Mohammad Rastad of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization had stated that the British flagged ship would be free to go after all legal processes were cleared. Based on Hanell;s statement, the reason for the detention remains murky.
Months after detaining the ship, seven "non-essential" crew members were allowed to leave Stena Impero. 16 crew members are still onboard the ship awaiting their release. 13 of the 16 crew members are from India, two from Russia and one from the Philippines.
Donald Trump urged the United Kingdom to join the United States in taking action against Iran after the attacks on a Saudi oil plant. Based on UK intelligence report a Special Air Services (SAS) team has also been deployed to the Gulf. Iran could stretch the detention and use the tanker as a bargaining chip as pressure mounts in the Gulf.