World, Middle East

Iran seizes British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

Iran says tanker was seized due to violation of maritime rules

Ahmet Dursun   | 19.07.2019
Iran seizes British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz


Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said Friday it confiscated a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. 

"The British oil tanker Stena Impero was stopped by the IRGC's First Division of Navy for not falling in line with maritime rules," the Iranian forces said in a statement.

It follows Britain's July 4 seizure of an Iranian flagged oil tanker off Gibraltar, a British overseas territory that abuts southern Spain. The Grace 1 is suspected of smuggling oil to Syria.

The 30,000-ton British-flagged ship has been taken to Iran for legal procedures, according to the Corps' statement.

The tanker's owner and management firm confirmed that they have lost contact with the vessel. 

"We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran," the company announced.

"Stena Impero was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters," it said.  

"There are 23 seafarers aboard. There have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers," it added. 

The U.K. Foreign Office said it is "urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation". 

In London, there were reports that the government’s emergency response committee, Cobra, has convened. The Ministry of Defence stressed it had ships in the area but could not provide any further details of what had happened.

Asked about the detention of the oil tanker, President Donald Trump said the U.S. will "talk to the UK” about the matter.

On Thursday, the captain and chief office of the seized oil tanker were arrested by the Gibraltar police services after a weeklong investigation. 

On the same day as the arrests, a British warship prevented three Iranian navy vessels from obstructing the course of a British tanker exiting the Persian gulf. The government accused Iran of breaching international law as the tanker was not in Iranian waters.

Iran has demanded the release of its crew and vessel and has threatened London of retaliatory measures, a rhetoric that is raising tensions between the two nations in a region already inflamed with war and brinkmanship with the west. 

Britain said in a statement that the Royal Navy “will be resolutely defending British maritime interests in the Gulf, but has no interest in escalating the situation.”

The EU imposed a series of sanctions against the Assad regime in response to the heavy crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in 2011 and the ensuing civil war.

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