Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf have reportedly seized two British oil tankers.
This comes amid rising UK-Iranian tensions which began when Royal Marines helped to seize an Iranian oil tanker in the Mediterranean on 4 July. A former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) responded by saying his country should seize a British tanker in response. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also warned of unspecified “repercussions”.
The Stena Impero, which is registered in the UK, was seized by the IRGC in the Strait of Hormuz for “violating international maritime rules”, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. A second oil tanker, the Liberia-flagged Mesdar, which is owned and operated by Glasgow-based firm Norbulk, appeared to veer off course towards the Iranian coast, according to its path on the Marine Traffic website.
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said he understood that there were no British citizens on board either ship. He also confirmed that he will attend a meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra on Friday night to discuss the issue.
A statement from Stena Bulk, which owns the Stena Impero, said ship manager Northern Marine Management had lost contact with the crew of 23 after “unidentified small crafts and a helicopter” approached the vessel at around 4pm on Friday. The company claimed the tanker was in international waters at the time but now appeared to be heading north towards Iran. Stena Bulk said “there have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers.”
Peace activists have previously criticised Hunt and other politicians for “grandstanding” and “sabre-rattling” over Iran, calling for deescalation.
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