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Iran seizes Maersk containership

Rickmers, which manages the ship for Maersk said Iranian navy fired “warning shots” at Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris.

   Maersk Line said the crew on the Maersk Tigris  is “safe and under the circumstances in good spirits.”
   The containership was seized by the Iranian government while passing through the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday under circumstances that remain unclear.
   “We are continuing our efforts to obtain more information about the
Iranian authorities’ seizure – in international waters – of Maersk
We are not able at this point to establish or confirm the reason
behind the seizure,” the Copenhagen-based shipping company said.
   “We have been in contact with the Iranian authorities – the Ports & Maritime Organization. They informed us that the seizure of Maersk Tigris is related to an allegedly unresolved cargo claim. We have however not received any written notification or similar pertaining to the claim or the seizure of the vessel. We are therefore not able to confirm whether or not this is the actual reason behind the seizure,” said Maersk.
   “We will continue our efforts to obtain more information,” it said. “We remain in close dialogue with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
    Maersk Line does not own the
2014-built ship or employ its crew. The 5,466-TEU containership is time
chartered from and managed by Rickmers Shipmanagement.
   The online ship database Equasis
lists Wide Golf Ltd. as the vessel owner. That apparently is an
affiliate of Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management. An article
about the construction of the ship at the Hanjin Heavy Industries and
Construction-Philippines and picture of the ship taken at its naming
ceremony last October can be viewed at the website of the Manilla Bulletin.
   The U.S. Department of Defense said its Naval Forces Central
Command in Bahrain answered a distress call Tuesday morning issued by the
Maersk Tigris
, after an Iranian Navy ship fired shots
across its bridge and Iranian personnel boarded the commercial vessel.
   Army Col. Steve Warren
told members of the Pentagon press corps that at about 2:05 a.m. Eastern
Time, several Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) patrol
vessels approached the Maersk Tigris, which is a Marshall Islands-flagged
cargo vessel.
   The Defense Department said the ship “was in Iranian territorial
waters transiting inbound, or north, in the Strait of Hormuz, between
the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the Arabian Sea. It is one of
the world’s major strategic choke points, according to the U.S. Energy
Information Administration.”
    “The ship’s master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters. He declined and one of the IRGCN craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris,” Warren said.
   “After this, the master complied with the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters near Larak Island, Warren said. Larak Island is off the coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf.”
   The U.S. having picked up the distress signal, directed the USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, to proceed to the nearest location of the Maersk Tigris, Warren said. It also directed a Navy maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe the interaction between the Maersk vessel and the IRGCN craft, he added.
   Both Oaktree and Rickmers referred calls to the same spokesman – Cor Radings of MTI Network, a crisis communications firm that serves the shipping industry.
   MTI issued a statement from Rickmers that said “at approximately 12:55 hours local time its managed container vessel Maersk Tigris was approached in the Persian Gulf by Iranian Navy and forced for inspection at a rendezvous position in Iranian waters. The Iranian Navy used warning shots during its approach of Maersk Tigris.”
   Rickmers said it “informed relevant international authorities” and “is seriously concerned about their crew and the incident which happened to their managed ship. The company would like to emphasize that it takes its responsibilities as an international shipping line very seriously complying with all applicable laws and regulations and ensuring that employees are aware of those laws relevant to their roles.”
   Radings said the company had no indication as to why the vessel was stopped.
   According to Radings, there was no military cargo on the ship, “just normal container cargo – consumer electronics, shoes,” and that the master of the ship said it was in an international shipping lane when the vessel was asked to stop.
   The Danish ocean carrier said the Maersk Tigris was en route from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Jebel Ali, Dubai, UAE, at the time it was detained.
   According to ocean liner schedule and capacity database BlueWater Reporting, the Maersk Tigris is currently deployed on Maersk Line’s ME3 service between the Black Sea and Persian Gulf. The ME3 is operated with eight vessels with an average capacity of 5,477 TEUs. The service has a full port rotation of Novorossiysk, Istanbul (Ambarli), Izmit, Mersin, Iskenderun, Jeddah, Dubai (Jebel Ali), Pipavav, Hazira, Mumbai (Nhava Sheva), Dubai (Jebel Ali), Salalah, Damietta, Mersin, Istanbul (Ambarli), Izmit, and back to Novorossiysk.
   Al Jazeera’s news service quoted an unnamed US defense department spokesman as saying the vessel is currently being brought to the southern port city of Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf Coast of Iran.
   CNN and other media outlets reported another Maersk ship, the
U.S.-flag Maersk Kensington was “followed” last week in the Strait of
Hormuz by an Iranian naval patrol.
   Iran’s Fars News Agency reported that the ship has been seized because of a financial dispute, attributing the information to an unnamed source.

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.