By BIMAN MUKHERJI and BENOIT FAUCON
Iran has agreed to release an Indian oil tanker that was detained by its naval authorities more than three weeks ago, Indian and Iranian officials said Thursday, in a likely end to an issue that had threatened to affect relations between the two countries.
Iran detained the ship carrying crude oil from Iraq to India on Aug. 13, saying it was polluting Iranian waters. India had denied the allegation, and according to the tanker's owner, state-run Shipping Corp. of India, the vessel wasn't in Iranian waters when it was detained.
New Delhi and Tehran traditionally have had strong diplomatic ties and India is one of the few destinations for Iran's oil, but the prolonged dispute over the tanker has raised tensions on both sides. Western sanctions on Iran had apparently complicated matters, making it difficult for insurers to submit guarantees to Tehran or adjudicate the matter, according to officials.
"I have been told that the Iranian authorities have agreed to release it. That is the message I have got from our own ambassador," said an official at India's Ministry of Shipping, who didn't want to be named.
He couldn't give details about what helped resolve the dispute.
An official at Iran's Port and Maritime Organization said there was a plan to release the tanker.
The Port and Maritime Organization's website, however, said Iran has released the ship after a deposit guarantee was made. It didn't say who issued the guarantee.
Jonathan Andrews, head of underwriting at Steamship Mutual, where the ship is insured, declined to comment Thursday.
The ship, MT Desh Shanti, is a 158,030-deadweight-ton tanker built in 2004, according to Shipping Corp. of India's website.
According to an Iranian port official in August, the tanker was detained because it discharged wastes and water mixed with crude near the country's Iran's Lavan island, in Persian Gulf. An inspection of the vessel later turned up extensive violations of regulations, including a nonfunctioning oil-and-water separation device, another official had said.
Dow Jones Newswires