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CSC demands release of MSC Aries crew

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The Cyprus Shipping Chamber has called for the immediate release of all 25 crew on board the Portuguese-flagged containership MSC Aries that was seized by Iran on Saturday, in retaliation for Israel’s bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus two weeks ago.

The CSC, representing the majority of Cyprus-flag vessels and Cyprus-based shipmanagement companies, said that, “innocent seafarers and international shipping must not be victimised and as such, both the crew and vessel must be released as a matter of urgency.”

The CSC echoed a call earlier by the International Chamber of Shipping that said the seizure was a “flagrant breach of international law and an assault on freedom of navigation”.

The crew comprises Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian and Estonian nationals.

The 149,500 gross tonne cargo ship left Khalifa port in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday and was headed to India when it was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards when it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, hours after Tehran launched a major drone and missile attack on Israel.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company is an Italian-owned Swiss-based cargo and cruise operator that leased the Aries from Zodiac Maritime, partly owned by Israeli investors.

Ever since Israel deployed an all-out war in Gaza, in retaliation for the deadly October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, the Red Sea has become a high-risk passage for vessels owned by U.S. and British interests, forcing ships to add at least eight to ten days to their voyage around Africa in order to reach Europe.

Tensions has soared in the region as Iranian-led groups, such as the Houthis in Yemen, have also targeted western vessels, saying Russian and Chinese-owned ships will be spared.