The British-flagged tanker Stena Impero was in an accident with a fishing boat before being detained on Friday, Iran’s Fars news agency reported on Saturday, quoting an official.
Iran says all 23 crew seized on the tanker are now at Bandar Abbas port and will remain on the vessel until the end of an investigation, according to Fars.
“It got involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat… When the boat sent a distress call, the British-flagged ship ignored it,” said the head of Ports and Maritime Organization in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour.
“The tanker is now at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port and all of its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over.”
The crew was made up of 18 Indian nationals and five others from Russia, the Philippines, Lithuania and elsewhere, Afifipour said.
Britain said earlier it was urgently seeking information about the tanker, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf.
Already strained relations between Iran and the West have become increasingly fraught since the British navy seized Iran’s Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
Relations between Washington and Tehran worsened last year when US President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. Under the pact, Iran agreed to restrict nuclear work, long seen by the West as a cover for developing atomic bombs, in return for lifting sanctions. But sanctions have been imposed again, badly hurting Iran’s economy.
Trump said he would talk to Britain about Friday’s seizure, which drove oil prices up above $62 a barrel.
The United States has blamed Iran for a series of attacks since mid-May on shipping around the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran rejects the allegations.
The incidents have increased international concern that both sides could blunder into a war in the strategic waterway, which is vital to world oil supplies.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about 500 US military personnel would be deployed to Saudi Arabia, part of an increase in troops to the Middle East announced by the Pentagon last month. (Reuters)