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Free at last! Seized Maersk container ship is released.

Iranian authorities released the container ship Maersk Tigris on Thursday, nine days after it was seized by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz. The ship, which has capacity of 4,446 twenty-foot-equivalent units, was en route from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates when it was approached and seized on April 28.

Maersk said the seizure apparently resulted from a 10-year-old legal dispute between Maersk and an Iranian company, Pars Talaie. Maersk said the ship and crew were released after discussions with Iranian authorities.

The Maersk Tigris is a Marshall Islands-flag ship that operates in Maersk’s ME3 service in the Black Sea and Persian Gulf. It is managed and crewed by Rickmers Shipmanagement.

Maersk said Rickmers reported the crew was in good condition and that the ship was en route to Jebel Ali, where Rickmers will attend to the crew.

“We will get our customers’ cargo on board Maersk Tigris under way as soon as possible and discuss with Rickmers Shipmanagement when the vessel can resume its voyage,” Maersk said in a statement.

The Danish carrier said the dispute that apparently led to the ship’s seizure involved 10 containers that Maersk delivered to Dubai in January 2005 on behalf of an Iranian company.

The containers were never picked up. Maersk said the cargo was disposed of after 90 days in accordance with United Arab Emirates law. The Iranian company sued Maersk, which won dismissal of the case, but the Iranian company resurrected its complaint in another Iranian court, eventually winning an appeals judgment of US$163,000, which Maersk agreed to pay.

Maersk said the Iranian company appealed the case, seeking higher compensation, and that Maersk was advised on April 30 that the appeals court had ruled Maersk was liable for $3.6 million in the case.

“The release follows a constructive dialogue with the Iranian authorities, including the Ports & Maritime Organization, and the provision of a letter of undertaking in relation to the underlying cargo case. We will continue our dialogue with the aim to fully resolve the cargo case,” Maersk said.

Source: Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com

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