Iran on Thursday ordered a release of an Indian tanker seized by it in Persian Gulf while carrying crude from Basrah in Iraq and taken to its Bandar Abbas Port 24 days ago.
The vessel MT Desh Shanti, having a capacity to carry 1,40,000 tonnes of crude was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps on August 12 citing environmental and pollution concerns. "Iran has ordered release of the Indian oil tanker," a source in the ministry of external affairs said.
Meanwhile, the shipping ministry also indicated the possibility of positive developments and were awaiting the confirmation on the actual release of the vessel belonging to Shipping Corporation of India.
The development follows hectic parleys between the two countries with India strongly objecting to the detention, saying it was a "colourable" exercise in transgression of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea and warning of serious ramifications.
Objecting to pollution charges, India has said the vessel on a "innocent passage" from Basrah to Visakhapatnam was not voluntarily destined at any Iranian port and was "forcibly diverted" to Iranian waters and then subject to PSC inspection.
In a strongly-worded letter to Iran, India had made it clear that Port State Control is a legitimate mechanism to be utilised prudently and "any arbitrary enforcement of this well-established regime can have serious ramifications on the smooth conduct of international maritime transport and may send alarming messages to the shipping community..."
The letter to the Iranian director general, safety and marine protection, said "we, the Indian administration, strongly object to this colourable exercise of power and remind your administration that your act in this case was in transgression of the UNCLOS'82 and several other international conventions."
Last week, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh had summoned the Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari to lodge a strong protest against the detention of its oil tanker and sought an "unconditional" release of the vessel.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had also asserted that it was important that New Delhi does not concede any point and the ship should be released "unconditionally". The development comes at a time when India, the world's fourth-largest oil importer, has significantly reduced its import from Iran following severe financial sanctions from the Western countries against the Islamic republic.
Iranians have been maintaining that the detention was "purely a technical and non-political issue".
Image: The vessel MT Desh Shanti was seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps
Photograph: Joel F Kifer/MarineTraffic.com