Maersk Line: Million dollar claim triggered Iran dispute

Maersk Line has lost a 10 year old case against an Iranian customer and has been sentenced to pay USD 3.6 million. The case explains the drama surrounding Maersk Tigris, which was detained by Iranian naval forces on Tuesday.

Maersk Line now confirms that a long-term dispute related to a financial claim from an Iranian customer is likely the reason that Maersk Tigris, in a dramatic turn of events, was detained by Iranian naval forces on Tuesday when sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. And Maersk has not until today, April 30, been notified that a court of appeals in Tehran has sentenced the carrier to pay USD 3.6 million to an Iranian company.

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In a statement on Thursday, Maersk Line explains that the carrier in 2005 delivered ten containers in Dubai for an Iranian customer. The containers were never picked up, and after 90 days the containers were destroyed by the authorities, as stipulated by local legislation in Dubai. The Iranian company subsequently filed a USD 4 million lawsuit against Maersk Line, a claim corresponding to the value of the cargo.

The case was rejected by Iran's state prosecutor's office in 2007, and the matter was also rejected by numerous other Iranian courts, after which the Iranian company filed a case against Maersk Line.

This is Maersk Tigris' route through the Strait of Hormuz

On February 18 this year, a court of appeals in Tehran ruled that Maersk Line should pay USD 163,000 to the company - and Maersk Line has not until today, April 30 - according to the carrier - been notified that the court of appeals has sentenced Maersk Line to pay USD 3.6 million to the Iranian customer.

"As we do not have the details of the ruling, we are not able to comment hereon, nor at this point speculate on our options," says Maersk Line.

Another Maersk vessel tracked

Just a few days before container ship Maersk Tigris was seized on Tuesday by Iranian naval forces when entering the Strait of Hormuz, another Maersk vessel - US-flagged Maersk Kensington - was approached and surrounded by four Iranian naval vessels in the same waters.

Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization announced on Tuesday that Maersk Tigris has been arrested following a ruling in a case against Maersk Line related to debts owed to Iranian company Pars Talaie.

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According to the Iranian Embassy in Denmark, both parties have made frequent court appearances in the case over the years. A final verdict sentencing the carrier to pay damages was issued earlier this year, said the embassy in a press release on Wednesday:

"The Danish Embassy in Tehran is believed to have been kept informed about developments in the case throughout the years." 

Iranian authorities emphasize that there were no political or security-related motives behind the incident on Tuesday.

"The detaining of the vessel is solely caused by the court order resulting from a commercial case between the two private parties," says the embassy.

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