COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The head of the Swedish shipping firm that owns the British-flagged oil tanker held by Iran since July said Tuesday the Stena Impero was still in Iranian waters, a day after Iran said the vessel was free to move.
Erik Hanell, CEO of Stena Bulk, told The Associated Press that "we know nothing as to why she is still there."
Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted the head of the country's marine and ports authority Mohammad Rastad as saying the tanker "will soon" leave Iranian waters but that the time of its departure depended on finalizing "legal" procedures.
"Despite public statements by Iranian authorities over the past three days that judicial proceedings have concluded, and the Stena Impero is free to leave Iran, the vessel remains detained at anchor in Bandar Abbas," Hanell said in a statement Tuesday evening. "We continue to work hard to secure the release of the crew and vessel."
On Monday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told journalists that legal proceedings against the tanker had ended. The Stena Impero has been kept in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas since July 19.
"Based on a friendly approach that allows forgiving mistakes, ground for freedom of the tanker has been paved and it can move," Rabiei said.
Iran seized the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world's oil passes. The raid saw commandos rappel down onto the vessel via helicopter carrying assault rifles, dramatic images later replayed on state television.
Earlier this month, Iran released seven of the ship's crew members. Sixteen remain on board.
The seizure came after authorities in Gibraltar seized an Iranian tanker carrying $130 million in crude oil on suspicion of it breaking European Union sanctions on Syria.
Gibraltar later released the tanker, then called the Grace 1, after it said Iran promised the ship wouldn't go to Syria. That ship, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, now sits off the Syrian coast, angering Britain. Iran hasn't said who purchased its 2.1 million barrels of crude oil.
The ship seizures came after months of heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf, sparked by President Donald Trump's decision over a year ago to withdraw from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers and impose crippling sanctions on its vital oil trade. Iran since has begun breaking terms of the deal.
Meanwhile, there have been a series of attacks across the Middle East that the U.S. blames on Iran. They reached their height on Sept. 14, with a drone and missile attack on the world's largest oil processor in Saudi Arabia and an oil field, which caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the 1991 Gulf War.
While Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia says it was "unquestionably sponsored by Iran."
For its part, Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an "all-out war."
On Monday, France, Britain and Germany jointly blamed Iran for the attack.
"It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation," French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting at the United Nations in New York. The U.S. also blames Iran.
Iran's Foreign Ministry rejected the accusations, with IRNA carrying a ministry statement describing Monday's joint statement by Macron, Merkel and Johnson as "irresponsible and ridiculous."
The ministry said the statement was a dangerous trend that ignores the Saudi-led coalition's role in the war in Yemen and "massive" weapons exports to Saudi Arabia by Europeans. It added that the three leaders would be responsible for its impact on regional peace and stability.
Jon Gambrell in Dubai contributed.