D.three months after a South Korean tanker was arrested in the Persian Gulf, Iran released the ship again, according to the government in Seoul. The captain of the chemical and oil products tanker “Hankuk Chemi” had also been released, the South Korean Foreign Ministry announced on Friday. “The ship left safely today.” The captain and the other crew members are doing well. A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry has now confirmed the release. The incident had briefly led to a diplomatic crisis between the Asian countries that were actually good friends.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) arrested the tanker earlier this year – it was accused of marine pollution. According to the IRGC, the ship was directed to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where the judicial authorities should deal with the alleged violations.
The incident came at a time when there was tension between the two states over frozen Iranian bank accounts in South Korea. The accounts were blocked as a result of the United States’ sanctions against Tehran. According to reports from the South Korean media, it was about seven billion dollars (about 5.3 billion euros). Iranian media spoke of billions of “oil money” that are frozen.
Tehran therefore demanded that the accounts be released. In February, the South Korean State Department said that the funds could only be released after consultation with affected countries, including the United States.
At the time the tanker was fixed, there were 20 crew members on board. Except for the captain, the crew had already been released in February. In order to maintain the ship, 13 crew members were last on the ship.
The shipping portal “Marinetraffic” showed the “Hankuk Chemi” on Friday morning in the Gulf of Oman at a speed of 10.5 knots, heading south. Following the expected course the tanker will initially head for the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
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