Stena Impero tanker crew safe and well, operator says

The Stena Impero was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on Friday

An image grab taken from a broadcast by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) on July 22, 2019 shows the tanker Stena Impero as it's anchored off the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.  / AFP / IRIB / HO / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / IRIB" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS  / NO RESALE - NO BBC PERSIAN / NO VOA PERSIAN / NO MANOTO TV
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All 23 crew members of a British-flagged tanker detained by Iranian authorities are safe and well, the tanker’s operator has said.

Swedish company Stena Bulk, which owns the Stena Impero released a statement on Wednesday morning confirming it had directly spoken to the crew.

"We had direct contact with the crew on board the vessel last night by telephone and they're all okay and in good health and they're getting good cooperation with the Iranians on board," the firm's spokesman Pat Adamson said.

“Family members are being updated on the latest developments and will continue to receive our full support,” a company statement added.

The Stena Impero was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on Friday from the Hormuz Strait shipping route. Tehran said the tanker was "violating international maritime rules", but the seizure is thought to be a retaliation for UK marines impounding oil tanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar. British authorities said the ship was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in contravention of EU laws.

The contact with Impero and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's suggestion he is ready for "just" talks on the issue have raised hopes of a peaceful resolution to the tanker spat.

Earlier this week Iran released photos and video of the crew, made up of Russian, Filipino, Indian and Latvian nationals, aboard the ship.

“We do of course appreciate this step of development and that this is a first sign that we will soon see more positive progress from the Iranian authorities,” said Erik Hanell, CEO of Stena Bulk.

Iranian authorities claimed on Wednesday that Britain had sent a mediator to Iran to discuss the freeing of the Impero, according to the semi-official Tasnim news site.

Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpayegani provided no details about the British mediator's supposed trip.

However, an Foreign Office spokeswoman told The National the department was not aware of any British representative being sent to Iran to mediate.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt this week announced plans to develop and deploy a "maritime protection mission" but gave few details. Britain, France and Germany have remained parties to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and aren't joining the US campaign of "maximum pressure" on Tehran.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said Wednesday that Britain and France have a "traditional naval presence in the Gulf" and their ideas for a European-led mission build on that.

Mr Burger said that Germany is in talks with them but "the conceptual deliberations are still at the beginning." He said it's too early to discuss "possible forms of German support or participation" but the talks haven't yet featured calls for German military contributions.