Ships, banks, a court case and Iran sanctions add up to a diplomatic headache for India
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The curious case of an Iranian ship held in Mumbai for about two years, which is now at the heart of a diplomatic row between the two countries, is turning out to be a tale of irony wherein neither the ship nor its cargo of urea has anything to do with India and yet, New Delhi runs the risk of attracting UN sanctions.
Such has been the sequence of events that Iran has now chosen to detain an Indian ship, the M V Desh Shanti, citing pollution rules, and summoned the Indian ambassador in Tehran to remind him about the fate of M V Dianthe. The story leading up to this diplomatic drama is complex and intriguing.
Like most Iranian ships, the Dianthe is affected by the sanctions on Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. As a result, financial transaction related to the purchase of the ship from its original owner could not be completed. And so, Nordbank AG — the bank involved in the transaction over the vessel — was on the lookout to initiate legal action.
The firm chose to act when the vessel was berthed in India. Invoking admiralty rules and maritime laws that apply on international waters, Nordbank filed a petition in the Bombay High Court in August 2011, seeking a stay on the movement of the vessel just days before it was to sail out. From here, began a legal process that has now got the Indian government in a tangle.
The case by itself was simple, with the petitioner seeking to settle a financial claim. The court held many hearings and eventually on December 13, 2012, passed an order that the ship could be allowed to sail on providing a security of about $ 18 million, the value of the vessel as estimated by the petitioner. This was Rs 99 crore at the then prevalent exchange rate of Rs 54.30 to the dollar.
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