Danish shipping giant insists on release of ship and crew seized by Iran
Iran is refusing to release a cargo ship it seized in the Gulf until Danish shipping giant Maersk settles a €3.2 million debt.
The Maersk Tigris container ship was detained by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday after shots were fired across its bow, spurring the United States to send military vessels to monitor the situation.
Maersk had chartered the ship, which according to ship operator Rickmer Shipmanagement is owned by undisclosed private investors.
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The company met with Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization on Wednesday and said the company "must presume" the seizure was related to the dispute.
"We have, however, not received any written or formal confirmation that the seizure and the cargo case are connected," the company said in a statement.
"We must insist that the crew and vessel are released as soon as possible. The crew is not employed by Maersk Line, nor is the vessel owned by Maersk Line. Maersk Tigris and its crew are thus not in any way party to the case."
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Maersk, the world's biggest container shipping line, said it had agreed to pay an Iranian company $163,000 after an Iranian court ruling in February which related to a dispute about 10 container boxes transported to Dubai in 2005.
"The Iranian company appealed the case seeking a higher compensation," Maersk said.
"Only today, 30 April, have we learnt that the appeal court has ruled Maersk Line to pay $3.6 million. As we do not have the details of the ruling, we are not able to comment hereon, nor at this point speculate on our options."
A statement from the Iranian Embassy in Copenhagen said the Maersk Tigris was owned by Maersk and that it had been apprehended in Iranian waters.
It said the Danish Embassy in Tehran had been informed of the case as it progressed.
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"Naturally the ship will be released after settlements of debts by Maersk Shipping Line and will be allowed to sail to its final destination," the statement, dated April 29 but posted on Thursday.
The incident occurred at a critical juncture in U.S.-Iranian relations, which could thaw should a tentative nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers including Washington be clinched.
It also coincides with heightened tension between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia over the civil war in Yemen, in which they support opposing sides.