Tensions soar after Iran seizes tanker
A British-flagged oil tanker, the Stena Impero, is in Iranian custody Saturday after the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said they had seized it in the Strait of Hormuz for “violating international regulations,” amid rising tensions in the Gulf.
The Stena Impero tanker “was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules,” the IRGC’s official website Sepahnews announced.
The tanker “was led to the shore and handed over to the organisation to go through the legal procedure and required investigations,” it said.
“We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a spokesperson for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Iran sees the seizing of tankers in the Strait of Hormuz as a “tit-for-tat situation” following the detention in Gibraltar of the Iranian tanker Grace 1.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Hunt said. “Grace 1 was detained legally in Gibraltarian waters because it was carrying oil against EU sanctions, to Syria, and that’s why Gibraltarian authorities acted totally with respect to due process and totally within the law.”
“Our priority continues to be to find a way to de-escalate the situation. That’s why I reached out to the Iranian foreign minister, that’s why due process in Gibraltar continues. But, we need to see due process happening in Iran as well. We need to see the illegal seizing of a British-flagged vessel reversed, we need that ship released, and we continue to be very concerned about the safety and welfare of the 23 crew members,” he continued.
The Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, the world’s most important waterways for the transport of oil, has become a hotspot for tensions with Iran amid a spate of incidents there.
Meanwhile the British Airways has suspended flights to Cairo for seven days “as a precaution to allow for further assessment,” the UK airline said in a statement.
The US Maritime Administration has issued an alert for vessels transiting the Strait of Hormuz as tensions escalate in the strategic waterway.