New Delhi: Iran continues to detain Indian tanker citing environment concerns for the sixth day on Saturday even as the two countries are involved in hectic negotiations to resolve the issue.
MT Desh Shanti, the tanker belonging to the country`s largest ocean liner Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), was apprehended on 12th August in Persian Gulf by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and taken to Bandar Abbas port while carrying crude from Bashra in Iraq.
India, through its mission in Tehran, is engaged in hectic negotiations for release of the tanker, the Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said here.
The development comes at a time when India, the world`s fourth-largest oil importer, has significantly reduced its import of crude oil from Iran following severe financial sanctions from the western countries against the Islamic republic.
Meanwhile, Iranian embassy here in a statement had said yesterday that the detention was "purely a technical and non -political issue".
"The officials of the shipping authorities of the two countries are engaged in constructive and positive interaction to resolve it according to the international law as soon as possible," the statement had said, adding the vessel was detained following a warning from the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Center, a Bahrain-based organisation which fights marine pollution.
However, denying that the tanker polluted the seas, a senior Shipping Ministry official said that "maritime authorities and international surveyors have inspected the ship, which is only nine years old, built in 2004.
"It was alleged that it caused pollution on July 30th but the fact remains that the tanker was not carrying crude on that date."
India`s crude imports from Iran plunged by more than 26.5 per cent in the 2012-13 financial year (April-March) as US and European sanctions on Tehran combined to make it difficult for Indian refiners to ship Iranian oil.
Imports of Iranian crude fell to 13.3 million mt, or close to 267,100 b/d, in 2012-13 from 18.1 million mt, or around 362,500 b/d, in 2011-12.
Earlier sources had said Iran had slipped to sixth place among India`s top crude suppliers in the year to March 31 from second place behind OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia in the previous financial year.