Iran releases Maersk Tigris as US Navy suspends mission
Iran has released the Marshall Islands-flagged container ship Maersk Tigris and its crew, the Iranian Foreign Ministry told the official IRNA news agency Thursday.
The release of Tigris, which was seized last week in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane, over a ten-year-old court case in Iran, comes two days after the US Navy quietly stopped accompanying ships through the Strait.
The US Navy began the mission following the seizure of Tigris, and said at the time that the operation was a short-term one.
It is unclear whether the ship was released because Maersk Line settled the dispute with the Iranian freight forwarder, but Iran’s foreign ministry said negotiations between “the private complainant and the other party were going on”.
“The Maersk container ship was released and has left Iranian territorial waters,” said ministry spokesman, Marzieh Afkham.
Interestingly, the ship tracking website Marine Traffic.com still has Tigris anchored at Bandar Abbas, based on AIS information that was 92-hours old at the time of writing, suggesting that Iranian authorities ordered the ship to deactivate its AIS beacon before it departed.
Maersk Tigris was bound for Jebel Ali Port when she was seized in international waters by Iranian forces, according to a statement from Maersk Line, with her ETA in Jebel Ali expected late Thursday.
The official IRNA news agency quoted an informed source as saying the Iranian Ports and Shipping Organisation would issue a statement on the details of the release.
The Pentagon has said in a previous statement that, according to their information, the ship appeared to have been seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and a maritime lawyer based in Dubai, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that those reports would make the incident illegal.
“If the reason for the arrest order was due to a commercial dispute, the revolutionary Guard had no right for a hot pursuit in international waters as based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” she said.
Maersk Line earlier this week had called for the release of the vessel, pointing out that she was not owned, but chartered, by the shipping line, while her crew were supplied by Rickmershipmanagement and were not employed by Maersk.
The Maersk incident occurred amid heightened tension between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia over the civil war in Yemen, in which they support opposing sides and security analysts have suggested the seizure of Tigris may have been carried out by elements within the Revolutionary Guard, without the consent of the Iranian government.
Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, has yet to comment on the release of Tigris. The shipping line is a major client at DP World’s Jebel Ali Port, and uses the Strait regularly. More than 35 Maersk ships have passed through the Strait since Tigris was seized.