Middle EastTankers

Iran seizes Stena and Norbulk tankers

Two tankers were taken into Iranian waters today, sending merchant shipping into heightened crisis mode. 

As has been widely reported, the UK-flagged Stena Impero, in transit from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates to Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia, suddenly diverted and ended up in Iranian waters. The ship’s manager has today said it lost contact with the ship and it was headed into Iranian waters with 23 crew onboard. 

Splash has also learnt that the crude carrier Mesdar, managed by UK outfit Norbulk, was taken by Iranian forces. The Liberian-flagged ship was underway to Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia when, according to security consultants Ambrey, it also made a sudden diversion from its intended course, ending up in Iranian waters. After a few hours, however, this ship was released, and as of 21.41 GMT the ship was speeding away back into international waters at 13.5 knots according to the latest data from Splash partner, MarineTraffic. 

The two captures come on the day authorities in the UK territory of Gibraltar decided to extend for 30 days the detention of the Grace 1, an Iranian tanker which was carrying 2m barrels of oil bound for sanctions-hit Syria.

Commenting on today’s dire news for seafarers around the world, Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, said: “Freedom of navigation is vital for global trade and we encourage all nations to uphold this fundamental principle of maritime law. In the 21st century it is not acceptable for seafarers and ships to become pawns in any way, they must be allowed to operate in safety.”

In Washington today US president Donald Trump vowed to help Britain, telling the press: “This only goes to show what I’m saying about Iran: trouble, nothing but trouble.”


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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