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Thursday, September 5, 2013

news on release of Desh Shanthi brings peace (Shanthi)

I had earlier posted about pollution ~ the charges under which Iran took possession of Indian ship Desh Shanthi…….. shanthi [peace] at last – that is what it appears now………… Iran’s decision to detain an oil tanker owned by state-run Shipping Corp. of India Ltd since 13 August, allegedly for causing pollution in its waters, has created  more than ripples in India.

India which has seen Iran as an trusted ally has all along been a major consumer from Iran ~ Iran pressurized by the UN and European sanctions;  and subsequent non-support of reinsurance  has chosen to react ugly towards India. The  vessel in news is ‘MT Desh Shanti’ a 158,030- DWT oil tanker built in 2004,  owned by the Shipping Corporation of India ~ Iranian authorities  allege that  the Suezmax crude-oil tanker was polluting Iranian waters, though the companytotally delied the allegation.  She  was on her way from Basra in Iraq to Visakhapatnam on India’s eastern coast carrying crude oil for state-owned refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd when it was directed by Iranian authorities to proceed to Bandar Abbas port in Iran. Ironically, the incident came a day after finance minister P. Chidambaram told Parliament on 12 August that the country was looking to buy more Iranian crude without breaching UN sanctions as part of measures to shore up the rupee and check a record high current account deficit.

Indian authorities have been contending that Iran has detained the ship without any provocation, especially when the United Nations Convention of the Laws of the Sea 1982 guarantees passage of the ship. Iranian vessels had been given blanket permission to sail in Indian waters after sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United Nations on Iranian crude imports made it nearly impossible for Indian vessels to get protection and indemnity cover.  To complicate the matters more,  Tehran likened this to M V Dianthe, a ship not seized but affected by the sanctions on Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. It  was  learnt that arising out of sanctions, financial transaction related to the purchase of the ship from its original owner could not be completed. And so, the bank involved in the transaction over the vessel  initiated legal action when the vessel was berthed in India, invoking Admiralty rules. 

There was not much of news and towards the end of Aug, after a fortnight, the Ministry of External Affairs’ Official spokesperson went on record stating - "Foreign Secretary met the Iranian Ambassador in South Block today for the second time since the MV Desh Shanthi was detained by Iranian authorities; the last such meeting took place on August 16. Foreign Secretary has conveyed Government's strong concern at the continued detention of our ship in Port Bandar Abbas and Government of India's expectation that the ship would be released at an early date and that crew members would be treated with all due consideration and courtesy in keeping with international norms.  Officials of both sides will make another effort to resolve this issue amicably.
Photo courtesy : marinetraffic.com

There appears to be relief… today’s there are reports suggesting that Tehran has ordered the release of an Indian tanker MT Desh Shanti detained by it for the past 24 days at its Bandar Abbas port.   The development follows hectic parleys between the two countries with India strongly objecting to the detention, saying it was a “colourable” exercise in transgression of the UN convention on the laws of the sea and warning of serious ramifications.

Some news agencies quote the MEA stating that Iran has ordered its release; which the Shipping Ministry was yet to officially confirm the release and sailing out.  While India strongly worded its protest, Iranians have been maintaining that the detention was “purely a technical and non-political issue.” 

It is yet unclear as to what  helped resolve the dispute. Quoting the Port and Maritime Organization's website,  there is news that Iran has released the ship after a deposit guarantee was made.  Who issued the guarantee is not known.  Jonathan Andrews, head of underwriting at Steamship Mutual, where the ship is insured, declined to comment Thursday.  The owners also have not yet confirmed the release nor on the issuance of guarantee.  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.

In this background, the news of release of the tanker today augurs well. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

5th Sept. 2013

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