A BRITISH-FLAGGED oil tanker held by Iran for more than two months has been released.

The Stena Impero – registered in the UK and managed by Clydebank-based Northern Marine Management – was seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19, accused of violating international maritime law.

But yesterday morning the vessel and its crew were heading for freedom after leaving the port of Bandar Abbas on Iran’s southern coast. The Foreign Office and the ship’s Swedish owner, Stena Bulk, welcomed the development. The latter said the crew were “safe and in high spirits” and free from Iranian waters as they headed to Dubai for medical checks.

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab continued his criticism of Tehran, saying: “The Stena Impero was unlawfully seized by Iran. It is part of a pattern of attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation. We are working with our international partners to protect shipping and uphold the international rule of law.”

Erik Hanell, Stena Bulk’s president and chief executive, said: “Upon arrival in Dubai, the crew will receive medical checks and debriefing by the company, following which arrangements have been made for them to return directly to their families in their respective countries.”

Hanell praised the crew for their “professionalism in the handling of this difficult and stressful situation”, and pledged to support them and their families to aid their recovery.

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The tanker was seized two weeks after Royal Marines were involved in an operation to seize a supertanker off Gibraltar. The Iranian tanker, carrying £104 million worth of crude oil, was seized on suspicion of it breaking European Union sanctions on Syria.

Gibraltar later released the tanker, then called the Grace 1, after it said Iran had promised the ship would not go to Syria.

The ship seizures came after months of heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf, sparked by US president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from Iran’s nuclear deal last year. Iran has since begun breaking the terms of the deal. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for a new accord to be brokered.