Poland calls on Iran for immediate release of British vessel - ministry

The Stena Impero was boarded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops on Friday during its passage through the Strait of Hormuz while on course to Saudi Arabia. /PAP/EPA

Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called on Iran to respect international laws on the freedom of navigation and to immediately release the Stena Impero, a tanker flying the British flag, taken over by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.

The Foreign Ministry statement also stated that Poland is " deeply concerned that tensions in the Persian Gulf pose (a) direct threat to the security and safety of maritime and air traffic, global energy supply, as well as to the broader security and stability in the Middle East."

The Stena Impero was boarded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops on Friday during its passage through the Strait of Hormuz while on course to Saudi Arabia. Tehran reported that the vessel had been involved in a collision with a fishing boat. Iran claimed that the Stena Impero, sailing under the British flag, ignored calls for help by the crew of the fishing boat whereby the tanker's crew disregarded international maritime law.

According to the owner of the tanker the ship's crew "strictly adhered to the rules of navigation and international regulations."

The tanker and its 23-man crew are being held in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Iranian authorities have said that the crew must remain aboard ship until the end of the investigation.

It is most likely that the impounding of the Stena Impero is a retaliatory move by Iran over the holding of the Iranian tanker Grace 1 by British forces off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4. The ship is being held on suspicion of attempting to break EU sanctions on Syria. On Friday morning the Court of Gibraltar took the decision to hold the Iranian vessel for a further 30 days.