IRAN has released the crew of MSC Aries, but the vessel is still “detained under judicial rules”, according to Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

The Portuguese-flagged containership was seized in the Strait of Hormuz in April, with a crew of 25 on board. The crew’s situation had been widely denounced by the shipping industry.

The release of the crew was announced in details of a phone conversation between minister Amirabdollahian and his Estonian counterpart Margus Tsahkna. Estonia is represented in the crew.

Mr Amirabdollahian said the ship, “which turned off its radar in the territorial waters of Iran and endangered the security of navigation, is detained under judicial rules”.

He said Iran “has already released all the ship’s crew members on humanitarian grounds, and if the ship’s captain accompanies them, the crew including the Estonians can return to their country”.

MSC Aries is owned by Gortal Shipping and chartered by MSC. Iran in April said the ship was seized over violation of maritime laws, and that it was linked to Israel.

“Compliance with maritime rules and regulations by all ships is necessary and unavoidable in order to maintain maritime safety,” Mr Amirabdollahian said.

And in other news, Yemen’s Ansar Allah (also called the Houthis) announced on Friday they would immediately begin to target any Israel-bound ships within the militia’s range.

Maritime intelligence firm Ambrey said Ansar Allah is “assessed to possess unmanned aerial Vehicles with sufficient range to target merchant shipping in the east Mediterranean Sea from Yemen”.

However, if launched from Yemen, there is also a higher chance of interception due to the presence of US and coalition warships, and Israeli and Egyptian air defences, Ambrey said.

“The Houthis have repeatedly attempted to target Eilat, an Israeli port city in the Gulf of Aqaba, with limited success. IDF, US naval assets, the Egyptian air force, and Saudi air defences have all intercepted attempts,” it said.

“Iran-backed ‘Islamic Resistance’ groups in Iraq and Syria, and more recently a Bahraini group, have attempted to attack Israeli port cities, with only minor damage reported in Eilat.

“Air defences in Israel and coalition support to Israel are assessed to be largely effective but cannot guarantee to intercept all threats.

“Counter-electronic warfare measures are also in place in Israeli ports. Coalition naval forces are also deployed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and, between Israel and Cyprus, there are counter-electronic warfare measures in place.

“Coalition defences further west are more likely to be variable and transient. Shipping is advised that the Houthis do monitor AIS and regular rotations which feature Israeli port fixtures.”

Ambrey advised all vessels considering calling Israeli ports to undertake a voyage risk assessment – including an affiliation check – before any final route decisions are made.