Iran Seizes British-Flagged Oil Tanker: Reports

A British-flagged oil tanker has been seized in the Gulf by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to Iranian media reports.

According to maritime tracking data, the vessel ‘Stena Impero’ took a sudden turn into Iranian waters despite her original destination being Saudi Arabia. The data showed it heading north towards the Iranian island of Qeshm.

Stena Impero is chemical/oil products tanker owned by Sweden’s Stena Bulk and is managed by Northern Marine Management. The tanker has a DWT of tonnes and was built in 2018.

Stena Impero

According to a statement released by the owner, the vessel was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter at approximately 1600 BST on 19th July during transit through international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.

The statement added that they are presently unable to contact the vessel, with 23 people on board, which is now heading north towards Iran. The company added that it is in close contact with UK government authorities.

The British government said it was “assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf.”

The tensions between Iran and the UK has been on a rise after the boarding and seizure of the Iranian supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory near Spain, for allegedly carrying oil from Iran to Syria, in breach of EU sanctions. The seizure was conducted by Gibraltar authorities with the help of around 30 marines from British Royal Marines’ 42 Commando unit.

Iranian tanker Grace 1

Following the incident, Iran summoned the British ambassador in Tehran in protest saying it as illegal and a “form of piracy. A senior Iranian official had also threatened that a British oil tanker will be seized, if a detained Iranian ship is not released. Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council which advises Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, made the threat on Twitter.

It was reported on July 11 that an IRGC Navy fast attack craft harassed and attempted to interfere with the passage of the UK-flagged merchant vessel British Heritage near the Strait of Hormuz. The vessel was reportedly secured by a UK Royal Navy Type 23 frigate, HMS Montrose.

The Royal Navy has also deployed its Type 45 Daring-class air-defence destroyer, HMS Duncan, to the region amid the rising tensions.

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