Government "Deeply Concerned" by Seizure Of Oil Tanker In Persian Gulf

20 July 2019, 07:25 | Updated: 20 July 2019, 17:27

Oil vessel Stena Impero has been seized by Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf
Oil vessel Stena Impero has been seized by Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf. Picture: PA

The government said it remains "deeply concerned" by the "unacceptable" seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker by Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf.

The UK-registered Stena Impero was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Strait of Hormuz for "violating international maritime rules", according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Stena Bulk, which owns the ship, says it was in "full compliance with all navigation and international regulations".

A second oil tanker, the Liberian-flagged Mesdar, which is managed by Norbulk Shipping UK, veered off course towards the Iranian coast after it was boarded by armed guards on Friday afternoon.

The Mesdar's Glasgow-based operator said communication had since been reestablished with the shop and the crew were unharmed.

The government's emergency committee Cobra met Friday night to discuss the situation, a spokesperson said: "We remain deeply concerned about Iran's unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation."

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told LBC there was a need to "show common face" in order to find a solution to the issue, adding it was right to "denounce it as unacceptable".

He told Iain Dale: "We've got to show a common face in this and that it is unacceptable.

"In the short term we have to denounce it as unacceptable, and that we get a resolution."

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote on Twitter "all sides must show restraint".

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has since spoken with Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and "expressed extreme disappointment" that after having been reassured that Iran wanted to deescalate the situation, adding the country has "behaved in the opposite way".

"This has to be about actions not words if we are to find a way through," he wrote on Twitter.

"British shipping must and will be protected".

In a statement, Stena Bulk said the Stena Impero is "no longer under the control of the crew and remains uncontactable".

"Soon after the vessel was approached by unidentified small naval craft and a helicopter during her transit of the Strait of Hormuz in international waters at approximate 1600 hrs BST today, the vessel suddenly deviated from her passage to Jubail and headed north towards Iran."

The firm's President and Chief Executive Erik Hanell said: “There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality.

"There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus.

"We are in close contact with both the UK and Swedish government authorities to resolve this situation and we are liaising closely with our seafarers’ families."