Cargo ship seized by Iran released 10 days later, its crew safe

Cargo ship seized by Iran released 10 days later, its crew safe
The Iranian warship Alborz, foreground, heads out on patrol in the Persian Gulf on April 7, one of several vessels dispatched by Tehran to the coast of Yemen where Saudi Arabia and Iran are backing rival factions in a civil conflict. (Mahdi Marizad / Associated Press)

Iran has released a commercial cargo ship more than a week after it was seized by Iranian naval forces, the ship operator confirmed Thursday.

The Maersk Tigris, which was seized on April 28, was freed by Iranian officials after a court order, according to Cor Radings, a spokesman for Rickmers Shipmanagement, which manages and crews the vessel. Iran's Ports and Maritive Organization confirmed the ship's release.


The ship's 24 crew members are in good condition, the company said in a statement. Radings added that "absolutely no violence" was used by the crew's Iranian captors during the incident. The ship will now continue on to the port of Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates, where company officials will meet and attend to the crew.

"Given the circumstances, they were treated in a fair way," Radings told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday.

The ship, which was flying a Marshall Islands flag, was confronted by an Iranian naval patrol as it traveled through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Jebel Ali.

When the ship's captain initially declined to comply with Iranian demands to halt and change course, the Iranian vessel fired warning shots across the ship's bow and forced it to dock at Bandar Abbas.

The incident prompted the U.S. Navy to dispatch air and sea patrols to monitor the situation.

In a statement this week, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that the ship was seized because of a financial dispute between Maersk and Pars Talaeyeh, an Iranian oil company. Rickmers has said the disagreement dates back to 2005 and has nothing to do with the Maersk Tigris or its crew.

The ship is owned by an undisclosed group of investors, Rickmers said, some of whom are American.

The Marshall Islands were once under U.S. administration, but have been independent since 1986. They retain close ties to the United States, however.

A U.S. Navy spokeswoman said Thursday that Navy ships are no longer accompanying U.S.- and British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz but will remain in the area and respond to "any threat or harassment" of American ships.

Times staff writer Carol J. Williams contributed to this report.

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