Announcing the development on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the decision to release some members of the crew aboard the UK ship was taken “on humanitarian grounds.”
The official said, “We have no problem with the crew and captain of the ship. The vessel was impounded for committing a violation and, naturally, when a ship is seized, its crew members come under arrest likewise.”
However, following investigations into the consular and licensure status of every single crew members, some of them were allowed to exit the ship and return to their daily lives, Mousavi further said.
The 30,000-tonne UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker was seized by Iranian naval forces on July 19, when it ignored distress call as it collided with a fishing boat on its route.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said the ship had also used a wrong path to enter the Strait of Hormuz.
Reacting to the news, the owner of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero said on Wednesday Iran was set to free seven of the 23 crew members being held although they had yet to receive and official confirmation of the release date.
“We are very pleased that for seven crew members their ordeal may soon be over, and they may return to their families, however, we cautiously await official confirmation of their release date," Erik Hanell, Stena Bulk’s chief executive and president, said in a statement.
“We view this communication as a positive step on the way to the release of all the remaining crew, which has always been our primary concern and focus,” he added.
Stena Bulk said the remaining 16 crew members would remain onboard the vessel to safely operate the vessel.
The seizure of the British tanker came amid a diplomatic row between Tehran and London, which had erupted earlier in July after British Royal Marines in Gibraltar illegally seized an Iranian oil tanker. That ship was later released.