‘Tanker released after authorities in Iran realised their mistake’

Shipping Corporation of India, India’s largest shipping company, on Thursday, said the charge levelled by the authorities in Iran against merchant tanker Desh Shanti that she caused oil spillage in the Persian Gulf was ‘frivolous’ and based on misinterpretation of satellite data.

SCI Director (Bulk Carrier & Tanker Division) Capt. Sunil Thapar, who was here to receive the crude carrier, told The Hindu that Desh Shanti was released after 26 days of detention at Bandar Abbas on September 6 after the public sector company gave an undertaking that they would pay $1 million if the allegations were proved.

“We think some other ship anchored in that area might have led to the raising of pollution alarm. They have not given any proof to us to substantiate their claim. There were five ships anchored in that area when pollution charge was made,” he said.

Desh Shanti, carrying 1,40,000 tonne crude from Iraq, was detained on her way to Visakhapatnam to deliver part of the cargo to Visakh Refinery of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited. The tanker ship, which anchored at the Visakhapatnam Port on Wednesday morning, left for Mumbai on Thursday evening after offloading 47,000 tonne for refining at Visakh Refinery.

“We think they might have released Desh Shanti after realising their mistake,” he said referring to the repeated charge made by the Iranian authorities. Asked whether they (Iranian officials) admitted their mistake, he said, “They have not told us anything.”

All the 30-member crew had an uncertain time during their detention off Persian Gulf. “They are all fine,” he said. He said they had submitted a Letter of Undertaking as per international practices with consent to pay penalties if Iranian charge was proved that the tanker was responsible for oily ballast water, 48 km away from Lavan Island, which subsequently caused a 16-km-long oil stain.

Asked to comment on reports that appeared in the section of the media that before ordering release of Desh Sahanti, some of the facilities in the tanker were damaged, he said they (reports) were nothing but a figment of imagination.