Photo: The international crew of the MT Hankuk Chemi tanker/Credit: ITF

ITF: Crew of seized South Korean tanker finally return home

crew of Hankuk Chemi
The international crew of the MT Hankuk Chemi tanker/Credit: ITF

The crew of the South Korean chemical tanker Hankuk Chemi, which was seized by Iranian authorities back in January, are on their way home, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said.

The vessel and its crew were detained in the Strait of Hormuz on 4 January 2021 over alleged ‘marine pollution’.

The crew included five South Korean, 11 Burmese, two Vietnamese and two Indonesian seafarers.

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The ITF said it had received a request for assistance from the Federation of Korean Seafarers’ Union (FKSU) to support the detained seafarers following the incident.

 ITF affiliate Iranian Merchant Mariners Syndicate (IMMS) was granted permission by Iran’s maritime authorities to visit the ship and check on the crew’s welfare.

On 8 February 2021, an IMMS representative and an ITF contact in Iran managed to come aboard. They were accompanied by agents from the Iranian Port & Maritime Organization.

Following the visit a meeting was held at Bahonar Port office between the IMMS team, the Republic of Korea consul and the Iranian Port and Maritime Organisation in order to review the situation and discuss the next steps to free the crew.

“Shortly after this meeting, the Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran issued a statement that the crew, with the exemption of the Master, would be allowed to leave the country. IMMS offered to provide Iranian seafarers so that the crew could be relieved and repatriated home as soon as possible,” the ITF said.

The crew members are now making their way home, according to the union.

Judicial proceedings into the alleged pollution by the ship and its captain remain underway.

 The vessel owner, DM Shipping, denied all allegations that the vessel caused pollution.

The latest incident comes at a time of increased tensions throughout the region.

In particular, the tensions stem from South Korea’s refusal to release Iranian oil-revenue from South Korean banks.

This has resulted in hostilities from the Iranian side as Teheran believes the decision to keep what is estimated to be up to $7 billion in frozen assets is unacceptable.

 The 2000-built chemical tanker is reportedly docked at Bandar Abbas.