Iran tanker seizure: UK warship HMS Duncan arrives in Gulf

A second Royal Navy warship has arrived in the Gulf to protect British ships amid heightened tensions in the region.

HMS Duncan has joined frigate HMS Montrose to escort vessels sailing under the British flag through the Strait of Hormuz.

HMS Montrose has so far accompanied 35 vessels through the strait, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK continued to push for a diplomatic resolution to the situation.

He said: “Freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is vital not just to the UK, but also our international partners and allies.

“Merchant ships must be free to travel lawfully and trade safely, anywhere in the world.”

Mr Wallace added the Royal Navy will continue to provide a safeguard for UK vessels “until this is the reality”.

HMS Duncan is a Type 45 Destroyer which the Royal Navy describes as “among the most advanced warships ever built”.

Why have tensions escalated?

Earlier this month, British Royal Marines helped seize Iranian tanker Grace 1near Gibraltar which was suspected of breaking EU sanctions, infuriating Iran.

In response, Tehran threatened to capture a British oil tanker.

On 19 July, British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in the key shipping route.

A second British-linked tanker, the MV Mesdar, was also boarded by armed guards but was released.

Tehran said the Stena Impero was “violating international maritime rules”.

HMS Montrose was alerted but it was too far away to stop the seizure.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said the tanker was captured after it collided with a fishing boat and failed to respond to calls from the smaller craft.

But the then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was seized in Omani waters in “clear contravention of international law” and then forced to sail into Iran.

The tanker’s Swedish owners, Stena Bulk, said it had been complying with regulations and had been in international waters.

Stena Bulk said the 23 crew members, who are Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino, are in good health and have met with officials from their respective countries.

How has the UK reacted?

The then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt called the seizure of the Stena Impero “state piracy”.

But he insisted: “Our priority continues to be to find a way to de-escalate the situation.”

Speaking to the BBC, former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith described the UK-flagged ship’s capture as a “major failure” by the UK.

The then defence minister Tobias Ellwood told Sky News “it is impossible simply to escort each individual vessel”.

What has Iran said?

Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif said in a tweet the UK “must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US”.

He said Iran guarantees the security of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, and insisted its action were to “uphold international maritime rules”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has indicated the Stena Imepero could be released if the UK returns the Grace 1.

In a statement on his website he said: “We are not going to continue tensions with some European countries and if they are committed to international frameworks and abandon some actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proper response from Iran”.


Stena Bulk says it has had contact with crew of seized tanker

Persian Gulf/SoH

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Stena Bulk, the Swedish-based operator of a British-flagged tanker seized last week by Iran, has been in contact by telephone with the 23 crew members of the vessel, Stena Impero, a spokesman for the operator said on Wednesday.

“We had direct contact with the crew on board the vessel last night by telephone and they’re all okay and in good health and they’re getting good cooperation with the Iranians on board the vessel,” spokesman Pat Adamson said.

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Commercial ships warned against using private armed security in the Gulf

Shipping associations issue advice after a series of attacks blamed on Iran

Shipping companies sailing through the Arabian Gulf are being urged to avoid having private armed security guards on board as the risk of escalation in the region rises.

Relations between Iran and the West have become increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar last week and London said its warship HMS Montrose had to fend off Iranian vessels seeking to block a British-owned tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

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BP Oil Tanker Reportedly Being Kept Near Saudi Shores For Fear Of Iran Action

Persian Gulf/SoH

A report by Bloomberg says that a British oil tanker is staying in the Persian Gulf in fear of being seized by Iran in retaliation for an Iranian tanker impounded by the British and Gibraltar authorities since July 4.

The mid-size oil tanker capable of carrying one million barrels of oil was reportedly moving toward one of Iraq’s oil terminals when it changed course and is currently anchored close to Saudi Arabia.

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Sources in Iran Deny Reports of Seizing UK Oil Tanker

Informed sources in Iran have dismissed the fabricated news of the seizure of a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, IRIB News Agency reported.

Earlier in the day, certain journalists and observers tracked the movement of the UK-flagged supertanker ‘Pacific Voyager’ in the Persian Gulf, and reported that it has “suspiciously” come to a halt in the middle of the Persian Gulf.

The reports were also dismissed by  a United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) official, who told Reuters the oil tanker was “safe and well”.

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