Detained ship case purely financial, says Iran firm

AFP , Saturday 2 May 2015

Maersk Tigris
The Maersk Tigris, a Marshall-Island-flagged cargo ship ( Photo: AP)

The case of the ship intercepted in the Gulf by Iran's navy on Tuesday is purely financial and with no political overtones, an Iranian oil company involved said on Saturday.

"Unfortunately, some are seeking to exploit the case politically, but the reality is limited only to damages that Maersk has made us suffer," said Hamid Reza Jahanian, head of the Pars Oil Products Talayieh company, the Fars news agency reported.

On Tuesday, Iranian boats forced the Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris to port after firing warning shots across the bow and boarding the vessel.

Iran has said it seized control of the container ship because of a commercial dispute with Denmark's giant Maersk group, which chartered the vessel.

When intercepted, the Tigris was in an international shipping route within Iranian territorial waters.

On Friday, officials said US warships now protecting American-flagged ships in the Strait of Hormuz may extend assistance to other countries' vessels.

The USS Farragut, a guided-missile destroyer, and three coastal patrol craft -- the Thunderbolt, the Firebolt and the Typhoon -- are operating in the area.

The high profile naval presence was a response to the seizure of the Maersk Tigris.

Since Tuesday, several Iranian officials have said the case is a purely commercial affair.

"Maersk Tigris, which was near the Strait of Hormuz, requested the assistance of a US aircraft carrier that was in the area," Jahanian said.

"A boat and American fighters headed to the ship, but fortunately our navy managed to redirect it to the port of Bandar Abbas," Jahanian said.

He said the vessel was "in Iranian waters" when it was intercepted.

Jahanian confirmed that a longstanding lawsuit between his firm and Maersk related to "containers sent to (the UAE port of) Djebel Ali and never delivered to the customer".

He estimated that his company had lost in the region of 10 million dollars.

"The containers were never collected by the consignee or any other party. After 90 days and in accordance with United Arab Emirates law, the cargo was disposed of by (the) authorities," Maersk has said.

On Saturday, Jahanian asked that Maersk "comply with the law and pay damages" to his firm, adding that the Iranian courts had jurisdiction in the matter.

"If Maersk pays what we want, the ship will be released. If not, the goods or the ship itself will be put up for auction."

Maersk said it was told by the Iranian Ports and Maritime Organisation at a meeting on Wednesday that an Iranian court had ordered it to pay $3.6 million (3.2 million euros) in compensation in the case.

Jahanian said his private company exported refined petroleum products to Gulf Arab states and Asian countries.

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