Iran detains Indian tanker carrying oil, wants undertaking

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New Delhi:  Iran has detained India's largest ocean liner Shipping Corporation (SCI)'s vessel carrying crude from Iraq on Tuesday, following which government is engaged in hectic diplomatic parleys with the Iranians to secure release of the tanker.

The tanker, MT Desh Shanti, was detained while carrying oil in the Persian Gulf, after which India, through its mission in Tehran, is engaged in hectic negotiations for the past two days, officials said.

MT Desh Shanti was detained in the international waters in the Persian Gulf by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), an SCI official told PTI.

The official said the tanker, which was carrying crude oil from Iraq, was not seized and just detained by the IRGC for some inspections amid environmental concerns.

The reason was not accepted by the Indian officials in Delhi because the ship after being detained was taken into Iranian waters.

Iranians have agreed to release the vessel only after securing some undertakings from the captain of the ship, officials said.

The Shipping Ministry was looking into the issue, a senior ministry official said.

The development assumes significance as it comes at a time when India has taken steps to reduce its crude imports from Iran.

Oil imports from Iran have been cut, after sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union (EU).

India's crude imports from Iran plunged by more than 26.5 per cent in the 2012-13 financial year (April-March) as US and European sanctions on Tehran combined to make it difficult for Indian refiners to ship Iranian oil.

Imports of Iranian crude fell to 13.3 million mt, or close to 267,100 b/d, in 2012-13 from 18.1 million mt, or around 362,500 b/d, in 2011-12.

Earlier sources had said Iran had slipped to sixth place among India's top crude suppliers in the year to March 31 from second place behind OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia in the previous financial year.

Imports from Iran were as high as 21.2 million mt, or 425,000 b/d, in 2009-10 before dropping to 18.5 million mt, or 371,520 b/d in 2010-11.

India's total volume of imported crude, meanwhile, rose to 182.5 million mt, or 3.67 million b/d, in 2012-13 from 171.7 million mt (3.44 million b/d) in 2011-12, 163.4 million mt (3.28 million mt) in 2010-11 and 159.2 million mt (3.2 million b/d) in 2009-10.

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