Seoul yet to decide on sending Cheonghae Unit to Strait of Hormuz

By Kim So-hyun

The Ministry of National Defense Ministry said Thursday that it has not yet decided on sending the anti-piracy Cheonghae Unit to the Strait of Hormuz in response to Washington’s request to forge a coalition against Iran’s military activities amid heightened tensions with Tehran.

“Sending (Cheonghae Unit) to the Strait of Hormuz has not been decided. … We are considering various ways to protect our vessels in the area, and are closely observing the situation,” the ministry said.

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Gibraltar court to decide fate of seized Iranian tanker

Gibraltar authorities will also decide on the fate of four crew members of the Grace 1

Gibraltar: Gibraltar’s Supreme Court was to decide on Thursday whether an Iranian oil tanker seized last month near the tiny British territory can be held longer amid speculation that it might soon be released.

The Grace 1 supertanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil, was seized on July 4 by Gibraltar police and British special forces off the overseas British territory, provoking a diplomatic crisis between Tehran and London. It was suspected of carrying oil to war-torn Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

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Israel Joins U.S. Security Coalition for Strait of Hormuz

Persian Gulf/SoH

Israel has joined the American military coalition for maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz, according to Israeli foreign minister Yisrael Katz.

“It is an Israeli interest to stop Iranian entrenchment in the region and strengthen relationship with Gulf countries,” said Katz, as reported by the paper Yedioth Ahronoth. “Israel is part of the US-led coalition to protect trade routes in the Persian Gulf.”

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China might escort ships in Gulf under U.S. proposal – envoy

Persian Gulf/SoH

By Alexander Cornwell

DUBAI (Reuters) – China might escort Chinese commercial vessels in Gulf waters under a U.S. proposal for a maritime coalition to secure oil shipping lanes following attacks on tankers, its envoy to the United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday.

“If there happens to be a very unsafe situation we will consider having our navy escort our commercial vessels,” Ambassador Ni Jian told Reuters in Abu Dhabi.

“We are studying the U.S. proposal on Gulf escort arrangements,” China’s embassy later said in a text message.

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Pirate Attacks Continue Worldwide Despite Efforts to Control Them

ASIA – AFRICA – Although the rash of serious pirate attacks off the Somalian coast which we reported on almost a daily basis in the years leading up to 2017 have since diminished, that does not mean the seas of the world are now always a safe place to ply one’s trade. It was a concentrated, internationally coordinated policy of increased naval surveillance which managed to largely control the hijacking of container ships and tankers in the Indian Ocean, but elsewhere every day brings the risk of assault on the innocent.

The Information Fusion Centre (IFC) is a division of the Indian Navy and its semi-annual report for South East Asia shows the state of play in the region. What should be made clear here is that the vast bulk of incidents worldwide are not truly ‘piracy’. To qualify for that title the vessel being assaulted must be at sea, therefore only one true pirate attack has taken place recently according to the IFC, that of the South Korean flagged bulk carrier CK Bluebell on July 22 near the Singapore Strait which passes Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

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Shipowners call for ‘freedom of navigation’

By Jim Wilson

Three major international ocean shipping representative bodies — the International Chamber of Shipping, the Asian Shipowners’ Association and the European Community Shipowners’ Association — have called for the international community to stop the escalation of tensions in the Strait of Hormuz.
    They also have called for the international community to fully respect international law.
    “All countries should ensure the safe passage of merchant vessels by respecting the freedom of navigation enshrined in Article 87(1)a and the right of innocent passage defined in Article 19 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS],” the joint statement reads.

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UK to join US-led taskforce in Gulf to protect merchant ships

Persian Gulf/SoH

The Royal Navy will join a US-led taskforce to protect merchant ships travelling in the Gulf.

The move comes amid growing tensions between the two western powers and Iran over the shipping route in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian forces seized British-flagged vessel Stena Impero last month, while the US has tightened sanctions on Iran.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the new maritime taskforce would give “reassurance for shipping”.

But it goes against plans laid out by his predecessor, Jeremy Hunt, for a European-led mission in the area.

The UK government confirmed last month that it would provide a Royal Navy escort, from warships HMS Duncan and HMS Montrose, for British-flagged ships passing through the strait.

The Ministry of Defence said the new mission would involve the same warships.

The US has also committed two warships to the mission, as well as aerial surveillance.

Washington has re-imposed – and latterly tightened – its own sanctions on Iran, after withdrawing from a 2015 deal to limit the country’s nuclear activities.

The UK and other European countries remain committed to the plan, but diplomatic tensions have been strained in recent months – increasing after the seizure of the Stena Impero.

Mr Raab said the UK’s decision to join the US-led mission did not change its commitment to the nuclear deal and that the government was working to “de-escalate the situation” in the Gulf.

Announcing the new mission, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK was “determined to ensure shipping is protected from unlawful threats”.

He added: “Upholding international maritime law and freedom of passage is in all our interests.

“We are seeing, across our seas and oceans, too many incidents that seek to challenge such freedoms.”