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Latvia asks Finland for help reaching tanker crew member in Iran

Iranian authorities reportedly removed 23 crew members from the ship, claiming the vessel violated international maritime rules.

Iranin vallankumouskaartin vene kulkee Stena Bulk -tankkerin ympärillä.
Twenty-three crew members of the tanker Stena Impero were reportedly detained by Iranian authorities on Friday after the ship was approached by smaller vessels and a helicopter. Image: Hasan Shirvani / EPA

Latvia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a request at the Finnish Embassy in Tehran, Iran to look into the situation of a Latvian citizen who was detained by Iranian officials following a fuel tanker incident in the Strait of Hormuz over the weekend.

Twenty-three crew members of the tanker Stena Impero were detained by Iranian authorities on Friday after the ship was approached by smaller vessels and a helicopter, according to the owner of the vessel, UK-based shipping firm Stena Bulk.

"Soon after the vessel was approached by unidentified small naval craft and a helicopter during her transit of the Strait of Hormuz in international waters at approximately 1600 hrs BST [Friday], the vessel suddenly deviated from her passage to Jubail and headed north towards Iran," the firm said in a statement issued on Friday.

The company announced on Sunday it had formally requested permission to visit the crew members and was waiting for a response.

Officials at the Finnish embassy in Tehran said that one of those detained included a Latvian man who had worked aboard the UK-flagged tanker.

No word yet

Laura Vanhanen, the Finnish embassy's Deputy Head of Mission, said the Latvian foreign ministry had made a request for assistance over the weekend, first verbally then in writing.

Latvia, a Baltic neighbour of Finland, does not have an embassy in Iran, and requested assistance in accordance with EU treaty rules.

"We will actively pursue such matters in cases when an EU member state approaches with such a request," Vanhanen explained to Yle by phone.

"We have been in contact with the Iranian foreign ministry. We have a good working relationship there. In addition, we have been in constant contact with our Latvian colleagues," Vanhanen said, noting that the embassy has been in contact with the Iranian foreign ministry over the weekend and as recently as Monday morning.

Vanhanen said the Mission was not aware of any health related issues concerning the detained crew members and that it is unclear when the matter would be resolved.

"We are watching the situation develop," Vanhanen explained.

In addition to the Latvian national, other crew members taken into custody included citizens of India, Russia and the Philippines, according to French news outlet AFP.

Iranian authorities have claimed that the tanker's crew violated international maritime rules.

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