Shipping tensions in the Middle East Gulf have ramped up after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a British-flagged vessel in the Strait of Hormuz.
The IRG boarded MR2 product tanker Stena Impero on Friday, July 20 first claiming it had been involved in an accident. But subsequent reports have emerged claiming the group said that tanker ‘failed to respect international maritime rules’.
On Friday, July 19 Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management confirmed that the vessel was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters. Shortly after the vessels suddenly deviated from her passage to Jubail and headed north towards Iran.
The company says that the vessel was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations.
The 23 seafarers onboard, of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality, have been reported as being in ‘good health’.
On Wednesday, June 24 Erik Hanell, president and CEO of Stena Bulk confirmed that the company have had direct communication with the crew and that everyone was safe with good cooperation with the Iranian personnel onboard.
Hanell says: ‘We do of course appreciate this step of development and that this is a first sign that we will soon see more positive progress from the Iranian authorities.’
On Sunday, July 21, president and chief executive of Stena Bulk Erik Hanell confirmed that a formal request for permission to visit the 23 crew members of the vessel has been made to the authorities at the Port of Bandar Abbas.
‘The request has been acknowledged, but we await a formal response. In the meantime, we will continue to co-operate and liaise with all appropriate authorities.’
UK Prime Minister Theresa May will chair a Cobra emergency committee meeting today (Monday, July 22) to formulate a response, which could result in sanctions being issued.
The Iranian Guardian Council said the seizure was in response to Britain seizing an Iranian tanker – Grace 1 – in Gibraltar.
The move further escalates tensions in the Middle Eat Gulf following the imposition of tighter US sanctions against Iran in May.