Stalemate for 7th day over detainment of Indian ship by Iran

Deadlock over detainment of an Indian oil tanker by Iran on Sunday entered its seventh day as both countries failed to resolve the issue despite hectic parleys.

Updated: Aug 18, 2013, 17:56 PM IST

New Delhi: Deadlock over detainment of an Indian oil tanker by Iran on Sunday entered its seventh day as both countries failed to resolve the issue despite hectic parleys.

"There is no development so far. The ship is still there in the custody of the Iranian authorities at Bandar Abbas port," a top Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) official said.

MT Desh Shanti, the tanker belonging to the country`s largest ocean liner SCI, was detained by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on August 12 in Persian Gulf and taken to Bandar Abbas port while carrying crude from Basrah in Iraq.

The official said there was not any kind of pollution from the comparatively new vessel with a capacity to carry 140,000 tonnes of crude.

Meanwhile, India through its mission in Tehran, is engaged in hectic negotiations for release of the tanker.

"Indian Embassy in Tehran is pro-actively engaged in talks with Iran officials for the release of the ship. There has been no pollution by the ship and we expect some positive development," another SCI official said.

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.

The Iranian embassy here in a statement on Friday had said that the detention was "purely a technical and non-political issue".

"Officials of the shipping authorities of the two countries are engaged in constructive and positive interaction to resolve it according to 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 here said, "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 30 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 (Apr-Mar) 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.

PTI