The U.K. is deploying its second warship in the Persian Gulf to protect country’s commercial interests, thus increasing military presence in the world’s busiest shipping lane.
The HMS Duncan, a Type 45 destroyer, will join the HMS Montrose next week, according to the ministry of defense, after completing a NATO military drill in the Baltic Sea. The destroyer will also work with other Gulf allies.
“As part of our long-standing presence in the Gulf, HMS Duncan is being deployed to the region, to ensure we maintain a continuous maritime security presence, while HMS Montrose comes off task for pre-planned maintenance and crew change over” the ministry of defense said in a statement, published in The Guardian newspaper.
“This will ensure that the U.K. alongside international partners can continue to support freedom of navigation for vessels transiting through this vital shipping lane,” it added.
Along with the HMS Montrose, the U.K. has four mine-hunting vessels in the Gulf with eight frigates on patrol, controlled by four naval commanders.
British Foreign Office believed this number was inadequate to ensure safety of British ships and to ensure their safe passage.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the U.K. is not seeking to escalate tensions in the region and especially with Iran, but admitted that the latest move, is in reaction to perceived threats by Tehran.
“We take maritime security very seriously. It is our primary responsibility to protect British shipping,” Hunt said in an article published in The Telegraph. He said that the situation is changing every hour, adding that currently the U.K. was reacting to what is happening in a clear and a very measured way.
Earlier on Friday, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar in a statement to parliament confirmed that the detained Iranian oil tanker bound for Syria, contained 2.1 million barrels of crude oil, breaching the EU sanctions on the transport of oil to Syria. The case has been referred to the Supreme Court.
On Thursday the captain and chief officer of the detained oil tanker were arrested by the Gibraltar police service after a week long investigation. On the same day, a British warship prevented three Iranian navy vessels from obstructing the course of a British tanker exiting the Persian Gulf. London accused Iran of breaching international law as the tanker was not in Iranian waters.
Royal navy marines and commandos last week boarded the Syria bound oil tanker and prevented the vessel from entering the Mediterranean Sea.
Iran has demanded the release of its crew and the vessel. It has threatened London of retaliatory measures. The war of words is raising tensions between the two nations, whose relationship is already strained, following Iran breaching the nuclear agreement.
The EU had imposed a series of sanctions against the Assad regime, in response to the heavy crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in 2011.
By Muhammad Mussa in London