Tanker seized by Iran 'preparing to leave' harbour: Swedish owner

Stockholm (AFP) –


British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, seized by Iran more than two months ago, was preparing Friday to leave harbour after being given final clearance by Iranian authorities, its Swedish owner said.

"We are preparing to leave," Erik Hanell, the chief executive of the company that owns the vessel, Stena Bulk, told AFP.

On Wednesday, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said the lifting of the seizure was finalised in a procedure coordinated by the foreign ministry, Iran's judiciary and its port and maritime authorities.

But the vessel's owners had said they were still waiting for authorisation.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had surrounded the vessel with attack boats before rappelling onto the deck of the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.

It was impounded at Bandar Abbas port for allegedly failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.

Seven of its 23 crew members were released on September 4.

The seizure was widely seen as a tit-for-tat move after the British overseas territory of Gibraltar detained an Iranian tanker earlier in July on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

A Gibraltar court ordered the Iranian tanker's release on August 15 despite an 11th-hour US legal bid to keep it in detention.

Tehran has repeatedly denied the two cases are related.