High Court: “Pirate Attack” was Attempted Fraud

In a ruling issued Monday, the High Court of London ruled that the tanker Brillante Virtuoso was irreparably damaged not by pirates, as her owner and banker claimed, but by a group of conspirators. Justice Nigel Teare found that the owner’s claims of piracy were improbable, and he reached the “firm conclusion” that the attackers intended to destroy the vessel, that they had the assistance of the master and chief engineer as they went about the task, and that the owner orchestrated the scheme in order to defraud his insurer. 

On July 6, 2011, Brillante Virtuoso was drifting off Aden, awaiting a team of unarmed security contractors before transiting Bab el-Mandeb. A small boat approached carrying seven masked, armed men. The men informed the crew that they were “security,” and they came aboard with the master’s permission. (The disputants in the case agreed that the boarding party’s members were likely current or former Yemeni Coast Guard or Navy servicemenbers.) They ordered the crew to the day room, and escorted the master to the bridge and the chief engineer to the engine room. 

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Source: maritime-executive.com

Sailors from USS Philippine Sea rescue the crew of the Brillante Virtuoso

US eyes 55-ship surveillance mission off Iran in Nov.: source

Persian Gulf/SoH

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is planning to form an international maritime surveillance mission involving 55 vessels in a key waterway off Iran in November, a source familiar with the plan said Thursday.

The plan came to light amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran following recent attacks on major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, an incident Washington has blamed on Tehran.

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Source: mainichi.jp

Saudi Arabia joins maritime protection mission: state news agency

Persian Gulf/SoH

CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has joined an international maritime mission to protect commercial shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and other areas, Saudi state media reported on Wednesday, citing an official source in the defense ministry.

The ​​operation area for the International Maritime Security Construct covers the Strait of Hormuz, Bab al-Mandab, the Sea of ​​Oman and the Arabian Gulf, the report said.

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Source: reuters.com

Iranian targeting of shipping in the Arabian Gulf ‘changes the game’ by raising risks to new levels

Insurance and shipping leaders said specific targeting of UK and US crew by Iran has left the industry to grapple with escalating tensions between Tehran and the West.

Nick Busvine, a partner at the strategic intelligence firm Herminius, told The National the drive from Tehran to take British and American hostages while targeting commercial shipping in the Arabian Gulf “changes the game” for the insurance industry.

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Source: hellenicshippingnews.com

Iran tanker seizure: Hunt seeks European help on Gulf shipping

The foreign secretary has repeated his call for the release of a British-flagged ship and its crew detained in the Gulf by the Iranian military.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard captured the Stena Impero and its 23 crew members in the Gulf on Friday.

Jeremy Hunt told MPs it was an act of “state piracy”.

Mr Hunt said the UK would develop a maritime protection mission with other European nations to allow ships to pass through the area safely.

The foreign secretary secured support for the initiative from both French and German foreign ministers on the phone on Sunday evening, the BBC has been told.

Addressing the Commons after a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee, Mr Hunt said he spoke with a “heavy heart” but if Iran continued to act as it had, it would have to accept a “larger Western military presence” along its coastline.

The seizure of the Stena Impero in the key shipping route of the Strait of Hormuz came after Tehran said the vessel violated international maritime rules.

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

Mr Hunt said the ship was illegally seized in Omani waters and forced to sail into Bandar Abbas port in Iran, where it remains.

Although the crew and owners are not British, the Stena Impero carries the British flag so the UK owes protection to the vessel, maritime analysts said.

The seizure was the latest in a string of acts leading to escalating tensions between Iran and the UK and US.

Earlier this month Royal Marines helped to seize tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar, because of evidence it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

Mr Hunt said that vessel was detained legally, but Iran said it was “piracy” and threatened to seize a British oil tanker in retaliation.

In a statement to MPs in the Commons, Mr Hunt said the UK would seek to create a European-led mission to ensure safe passage of international vessels in the Gulf.

“Freedom of navigation is a vital interest of every nation,” he said.

US Central Command said it was developing a multinational maritime effort in response to the situation.

But the UK’s protection mission would not include the US because, Mr Hunt insisted, Britain was not part of President Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran.

The initiative would build on existing structures in the region such as the US Navy-led Combined Task Force 150, the BBC has learned.

Instead of focusing on tackling terrorism and the illegal drugs trade like the Combined Task Force 150, the new scheme would have a mandate to ensure freedom of navigation of international ships, the Foreign Office explained.

The mission would be implemented “as quickly as possible” but in the meantime the destroyer HMS Duncan has been sent to help keep British ships and crews safe in the region, Mr Hunt told the Commons.

Mr Hunt said the UK had sought to de-escalate the situation but there would be “no compromise” on freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.

Bob Sanguinetti, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, welcomed the announcement of the mission but said it was “imperative” the government protected British-flagged ships in the Gulf in the meantime.

Mr Hunt encouraged commercial shipping companies in the region to follow advice issued by the Department for Transport to help reduce “risks of piracy”, because it was “not possible for the Royal Navy to provide escorts for every single ship”.

Source: bbc.co.uk

Threat level raised to ‘critical’ for UK ships in Iranian waters

The UK has raised the threat to British shipping in Iranian waters in the Gulf to the highest level – where the risk of attack is “critical”.

The step was taken on Tuesday, amid growing tensions in the region.

On Wednesday, Iranian boats tried to impede a British oil tanker in the region – before being driven off by a Royal Navy ship, the MoD said.

Iran had threatened to retaliate for the seizure of one of its own tankers, but denied any attempted seizure.

The Department for Transport said it regularly provided security advice to UK ships in high-risk areas.

The threat level means British ships are advised not to enter Iranian waters, BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said.

Boats believed to belong to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) approached the British Heritage tanker and tried to bring it to a halt as it was moving out of the Gulf into the Strait of Hormuz.

HMS Montrose, a British frigate shadowing the BP-owned tanker, was forced to move between the three boats and the ship, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.

He described the Iranians’ actions as “contrary to international law”.

Guns on HMS Montrose were trained on the Iranian boats as they were ordered to back off, US media reported. The boats heeded the warning and no shots were fired.

Last week, British Royal Marines helped the authorities in Gibraltar seize an Iranian tanker because of evidence it was carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

A spokesman for the Royal Gibraltar Police said they had arrested the captain and chief officer of the Iranian tanker on Thursday, on suspicion of breaching EU sanctions, but neither had been charged.

The BBC has been told British Heritage was near the island of Abu Musa when it was approached by the Iranian boats.

Although Abu Musa is in disputed territorial waters, HMS Montrose remained in international waters throughout.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said the government was concerned by the incident and urged the Iranian authorities to “de-escalate the situation”.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt added the UK would monitor the situation “very carefully”.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said the government was “committed to maintaining freedom of navigation in accordance with international law”.

A spokesperson for the US State Department condemned Iran’s actions and said that Washington would continue to work closely with the UK.

Morgan Ortagus said: “We commend the actions of the Royal Navy in ensuring freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce through this critically important waterway.”

Commander of the US Fifth Fleet Vice Adm Jim Malloy described the incident as “unlawful harassment” and said the fleet would continue to work closely with the Royal Navy to defend “the free flow of commerce”.

What does Iran say?

The navy of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps has denied claims it tried to seize the tanker, Iranian news agencies reported. IRGC’s navy said there had been no confrontation with any foreign vessels in the past 24 hours.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the UK made the claims “for creating tension”.

“These claims have no value,” Mr Zarif added, according to the Fars news agency.

Why are UK-Iran tensions escalating?

The relationship between the UK and Iran has become increasingly strained, after Britain said the Iranian regime was “almost certainly” responsible for the attacks on two oil tankers in June.

Tensions grew after the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker by authorities in Gibraltar, assisted by British Royal Marines.

On Thursday an Iranian official told the BBC the seizure was “unnecessary and non-constructive escalation by the UK” and called for the tanker, Grace 1, to be released.

An Iranian official previously said a British oil tanker should be seized if Grace 1 was not released.

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the UK “scared” and “hopeless” for using Royal Navy warships to shadow another British tanker in the Gulf.

“You, Britain, are the initiator of insecurity and you will realise the consequences later,” Mr Rouhani said.

The Royal Navy has a frigate, four minehunters and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship already stationed in a permanent Naval Support Facility in the region, at Mina Salman in Bahrain.

This is enough to provide reassurance, but probably not to deal with a crisis, BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said.

Ministers would now have to consider sending another Royal Navy ship to the region – but this could further escalate tensions with Iran, our correspondent said.

Foreign Office officials said they were keeping the UK’s military posture in the region under constant review but insisted they did not want to see tensions escalate.

Source: bbc.co.uk

NIMASA partners USA, UK on ship registry

The Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, said the agency is partnering with foreign ship registry to reposition the Nigerian Ship Registry (NSR).

Peterside disclosed this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja.

“We are also reforming the Nigeria Ship Registration Office. For a very long time the Nigeria ship registry has not been very competitive, so we are developing a lot of partnerships.”

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Source: thenewsnigeria.com.ng