Iran has clarified that it detained Indian tanker ‘MT Desh Shanti’ as a regional agency monitoring marine pollution raised an oil spill alarm.

Iran’s Fars News Agency has reported that the Bahrain-based Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre (MEMAC) held the ship responsible for causing oil discharge while on its way to India from Iraq.

Nima Pourang, head of the Sea Pollution department in the Iranian environment protection organisation, said the tanker had discharged “oily ballast water” 48 km away from Lavan Island in the Persian Gulf, causing a 16-km-long “oil stain.

The ship was reportedly carrying Iraqi oil for Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited. If a case of environmental damage due to washing out of ballast water is made out, charges or penalties are likely to be slapped on the ship’s insurers.

Earlier, the Bahraini daily Gulf Daily News, in its August 10 edition, quoted law firm Holman Fenwick Willan Middle East as saying that investigations conducted by the Shipping Corporation of India did not reveal any evidence of oil spill caused by Desh Shanti near the Iranian waters.

“SCI has investigated the matter fully and found no evidence whatsoever to support the allegation that any oil was spilled from Desh Shanti,” the firm said in a statement. “In particular, the vessel was not carrying any cargo at the time of the alleged incident, and she had sailed in ballast from her last port, where her tanks and lines were confirmed to be dry by an independent inspection agency.”

The firm asserted that that the ship had “received a telephonic enquiry from the UKMTO (UK Maritime Trade Operations) about possible oil spill on July 30, which resulted in an immediate check which determined that there was no leakage from the vessel.”

“The vessel,” it said, “was again inspected at her next port of call by an independent surveyor, which confirmed that there was no evidence of any spill.”

Media reports earlier implied that Tehran had detained the ship to signal its displeasure over New Delhi’s decision to cut crude imports following the imposition of unilateral western energy sanctions on Iran. Mr. Pourang said Iranian ports and maritime organisation were “observing the tanker.” Fars reported that the vessel was taken to the Khor Musa port in Iran’s Khuzestan province.