DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A British-flagged oil tanker held by Iran since July began transmitting its location Friday morning for the first time in weeks, a ship-tracking website showed, as the company said the ship was preparing to leave Iran.
Citing satellite data, MarineTraffic.com showed the Stena Impero just outside the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf, where it has been held since being seized by Iran on July 19.
The Stena Impero’s owner, Swedish-based Stena Bulk, told The Associated Press the vessel was “preparing to leave Bandar Abbas.” There was no immediate comment from Iranian authorities.
The ship-tracking data showed the ship was stationary at 8:18 a.m. local time (4:48 a.m. GMT).
On Monday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told journalists that legal proceedings against the tanker had ended.
“Based on a friendly approach that allows forgiving mistakes, ground for freedom of the tanker has been paved and it can move,” Rabiei said. But the ship did not leave the Iranian port.
Stena Bulk’s CEO had said in recent days that the company was working to secure the release of the ship and its crew.
Iran seized the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian 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.
Earlier this month, Iran released seven crew members of the Stena Impero. Sixteen remained on board.
Its seizure came after authorities in Gibraltar on July 4 seized an Iranian oil tanker carrying some $130 million in crude oil on suspicion of it breaking European Union sanctions on 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.
The ship seizures come after months of heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf, sparked by President Donald Trump’s decision over a year ago to unilaterally pull out of a nuclear deal with Iran. The U.S. has imposed sanctions that have kept Iran from selling its oil abroad and have crippled its economy. Iran has since begun breaking terms of the deal.
Meanwhile, there have been a series of attacks across the Middle East that the U.S. blames on Iran. They reached their height on Sept. 14, with a missile and drone attack on the world’s largest oil processor in Saudi Arabia and an oil field, which caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the 1991 Gulf War. While Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia says it was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”
Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an “all-out war.”