Iranian official to neighbors: Hand over Alpine Eternity

MAY 15, 2015 — Shipowners with any kind of legal dispute with an Iranian entity would be well advised to steer clear of waters patrolled by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Navy. That appears to be the lesson to be drawn from the detention of the Maersk Tigris and yesterday's firing of shots at the Singapore flagged tanker Alpine Eternity (see earlier story).

Though the Alpine Eternity eluded the attack, an Iranian official, Habib Jadidi, director of the consortium for phase 13 of the South Pars project, has called on Iran's neighbors to seize the vessel and hand it over to Iran for "seriously damaging an Iranian oil platform and fleeing the scene."

Wire services report that a statement from the ship's manager Transpetrol and owner South Maritime Pte Ltd. says the tanker "was attacked by a number of small craft," which first fired warning shots and issued calls ordering the ship to stop Thursday morning. The crew ignored the order, changed course to head for UAE waters and called for help."

"At the point when the order was ignored and when the vessel changed course it was directly fired upon," the companies said.

Back on March 22, Alpine Eternity was involved in an accident that damaged both the ship and an Iranian oil platform. On that occasion, the ship started taking on water and was escorted to safety by USS Mitscher.

In the statement reported by the wire services, the owner and manager say that structure the ship hit was "previously uncharted" and that they have been in continuous dialogue with the owners of the platform.

Though sanctions against Iran have complicated the situation, the companies and insurers are committed to resolving the issue, the statement said.

"Owners and managers can see no reason why the Iranian authorities should try to seize the vessel, given the advanced state of negotiations and ongoing dialogue with the Iranian counterparts," the companies said.

That's not the way the Iranians see things.

Iran's Press TV quotes Habib Jadidi as saying that the Alpine Eternity was trying to leave the region before the issue could be resolved.

"We want neighboring countries to make the necessary cooperation on confiscation and handing over of this particular vessel," he said.

He said the collision had caused $300 million of damage to the rig. The Norwegian company has been informed of the damage but it has taken no measure so far to pay for it, he said.

"The collision has created a very dangerous situation for the wells which have reached the gas reservoir. If it is not quickly tackled, wellhead installations will be damaged and if no gas flows from the wells it could lead to unpleasant hazards and pollution of the sea," Mr. Jadidi said.

He said his company had the coordinates of the wells internationally registered four years ago, while the platform stood 10 meters above the water surface with all the alert lights and other warning systems installed on it.

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