Deadlock with Iran over seized oil tanker continues

NEW DELHI: Despite hectic parleys between the two countries, India and Iran failed to resolve the issue of MT Desh Shanti which, according to Indian authorities, was illegally detained by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Tuesday. The vessel is still at Bandar Abbas port.

Iran said the tanker was detained only because of the warning issued by the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Center (MEMAC) that is affiliated tothe Regional Organization for Protection of Maritime Environment (ROPME) in the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea.

India, however, continues to maintain that the tanker, which was carrying crude from Iraq when it was detained, did not leave any oily ballast in Iranian waters and was not even carrying any cargo on July 30 — the day it is said to have polluted Iranian waters. As TOI first reported on Thursday, IRGC detained the ship carrying 140,000 tonnes of Iraq crude on August 13 and coerced it into Iranian waters before finally taking it to Bandar Abbas port. The vessel has been subjected to two rounds of inspection.

“This is purely a technical and non political issue and 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,” said Iranian high commission in a statement here, adding that diplomatic channels of two countries are also involved in supporting this interaction.

Indian officials said even if there is an environmental issue — that the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) has denied vehemently — there are standard international norms to handle these and that Tehran should adhere to them. While Iran had earlier sought an anti-pollution undertaking from the ship captain for releasing the ship, its foreign ministry spokesperson said Iran must be indemnified in accordance with the law. “This ship has caused widespread pollution in the Persian Gulf, and under international regulations we were obliged to stop the ship for investigation,” he was quoted as having told an Iranian news agency.

Indian officials say the ship should never have been detained by Iran under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Iran has signed but not ratified, and 1958 Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone that is ratified by Tehran.

According to SCI officials, the ship had been fully inspected by port authorities in Iraq but there was no evidence of any pollution. SCI maintained that the ship’s tanks were confirmed to be dry by independent agencies and surveyors the day it is alleged to have discharged oily ballast.

“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,” a shipping ministry official told PTI.

By Times Of India 


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