Theresa May will chair a Cobra emergency committee meeting following the seizure of a UK-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on 19 July 2019.
The Stena Impero vessel was surrounded by four Iranian vessels and a helicopter before being boarded then redirected from its passage to Jubail towards Iran.
This map shows the Stena Impero was in Omani Territorial Sea when it was intercepted by Iranian forces.
Blue Line: Route SI was taking on Friday as it transited through the Strait of Hormuz.
Red Square: Location SI was intercepted, boarded and re-routed into Iranian Water. pic.twitter.com/kXrgzYoaQ0
— Dept for Transport (@transportgovuk) July 21, 2019
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Swedish company Stena Bulk, which owns the Impero, has confirmed the vessel was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations.
In a letter to the United Nations Security Council president, UK representative Jonathan Allen said: “Current tensions are extremely concerning, and our priority is to de-escalate. We do not seek confrontation with Iran. But it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to threaten shipping going about its legitimate business through internationally recognised transit corridors.
“The impediment to the right to transit passage and seizure of the Stena Impero is contrary to international law. We call on Iran to release the Stena Impero, and are working to resolve the situation through diplomatic means.”
Just spoke 2 Iranian FM Zarif &expressed extreme disappointment that having assured me last Sat Iran wanted 2 deescalate situation they have behaved in the opposite way.This has 2 be about actions not words if we are to find a way through.British shipping must & will be protected
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 20, 2019
This latest incident follows an attempt by three Iranian vessels to impede the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz on 11 July 2019.
Tensions between Iran and the UK have heightened after the seizure of a tanker suspected to be carrying Iranian oil to Syria by UK commandos offshore Gibraltar on 5 July 2019, described by an Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson as “tantamount to maritime piracy.”
Unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action in the Persian Gulf is to uphold int’l maritime rules.
As I said in NY, it is IRAN that guarantees the security of the Persian Gulf & the Strait of Hormuz.
UK must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 20, 2019
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s busiest oil routes and the only sea passage through the Persian Gulf.
In a statement, International Chamber of Shipping secretary general Guy Platten said: “We are extremely concerned about this latest development in the Strait of Hormuz, particularly in respect of the safety of seafarers. We call on all authorities to work together to seek a swift and transparent resolution to the situation and to ensure that crews are kept safe.
“Freedom of navigation is vital for global trade and we encourage all nations to uphold this fundamental principle of maritime law. In the 21st century, it is not acceptable for seafarers and ships to become pawns in any way, they must be allowed to operate in safety. We will be reviewing the situation and remain in contact with relevant authorities.”
The conflicts in the Strait have strained the relationship between Iran and the west, exacerbating tensions created by Iran’s breaching of limits placed on its low-enriched uranium stockpiles in July 2019, as well as US officials attributing attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz in June 2019 and a number of attacks on tankers in May 2019 to the nation.