REG Tanker Brief-1569583837534
A grab from images released by Iran Press on September 27, 2019 show the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which had been held off the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas for more than two months, setting sail as it heads towards the Arabian Gulf's international waters, according to the Hormozgan province's maritime organisation. Image Credit: AFP

Tehran: A British-flagged oil tanker held by Iran since July was released Friday and was heading toward the United Arab Emirates, the company that owns the vessel said.

Iran’s marine and port authority said the Stena Impero left Iran Friday morning. Hours earlier, the tanker had begun transmitting its location for the first time in weeks just outside the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, where it had been held since its July 19 seizure.

The head of the Swedish shipping firm Stena Bulk that owns the tanker said it “has been a long wait” for the vessel and its crew to be released.

Company president and CEO Erik Hanell said the ship’s seizure “has meant an enormous pressure for us all, especially for the crew.” The ship was headed to Dubai, where the crew would disembark and undergo medical checks.

Hannel said the vessel appeared to be in good condition and “hopefully it will be on duty within a week or so,” speaking by telephone with Swedish television.

The ship tracking website MarineTraffic.com showed the Stena Impero heading south from Iran at a speed of just over 14 mph (22 kph).

Iran seized the tanker on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Arabian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes.

The raid saw commandos rappel down onto the vessel via helicopter carrying assault rifles, dramatic images later replayed on state television.

The seizure came after British marines helped take control of an Iranian supertanker on July 4. Authorities in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, seized the ship carrying $130 million in crude oil on suspicion it was breaking European Union sanctions by taking the oil to Syria.

Gibraltar later released the tanker, then called the Grace 1, after it said Iran promised the ship wouldn’t go to Syria.

That ship, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, later sat off the Syrian coast, angering Britain. Iran hasn’t said who purchased its 2.1 million barrels of crude oil.