A commercial dispute is reportedly behind the seizure of a Maersk-chartered boxship by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz.
An “informed source” cited by the Fars news agency said the 5,470-teu Maersk Tigris (built 2014) “had a dispute with the Iranian port administration, which obtained a court order to impound it.”
Reuters cited Iranian media as saying the order related to a complaint made by a private Iranian company over debts.
Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, said “coastguards” seized the ship following a lawsuit filed by a local company at Tehran Provincial Court in March.
The managing director of the country’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, Mohammad Saeidnejad, told IRNA an order was made to confiscate the “foreign firm’s” assets.
He referred to the ship as being operated by Maersk and said the suit was against its “owner company.”
A Maersk Line spokesman said it was too soon to comment on the cause of the seizure as the company was still trying to obtain more information.
The latest AIS data showed the vessel at anchor off the island of Qeshm on Wednesday after shots were fired across it and it was boarded by the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN).
In response, US Naval Forces Central Command has sent the destroyer USS Farragut and aircraft to the Maersk Tigris’ location to monitor the situation.
The ship is owned by Oaktree, the US private equity firm, and managed by Germany’s Rickmers Reederei.
A spokesman for Rickmers told TradeWinds the company was unaware of any commercial dispute.
Its first priority was to get the ship and crew out as quickly as possible, he added.
Iran also said the 24-strong crew is made up of Britons, Bulgarians, Myanmarese and Romanians, with a Bulgarian Master.
Rickmers said the crew consisted of Asians and Eastern Europeans.
Maersk Line added: “We are in on-going contact with Rickmers Shipmanagement and are pleased to learn that the crew is safe and under the circumstances in good spirits. The well-being of the crew remains our paramount concern.”
It continued: “We are continuing our efforts to obtain more information about the Iranian authorities’ seizure – in international waters – of Maersk Tigris. We are not able at this point to establish or confirm the reason behind the seizure.”
The vessel was held while en route from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to Jebel Ali in the UAE in international waters.
It serves Maersk’s ME3 loop between the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf.
Maersk Tigris is carrying general cargo, Maersk said.
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