All British ships have been told by the UK government to avoid transiting the Strait of Hormuz for an indefinite period following Friday’s seizure of the UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker.
Iranian authorities have claimed the ship hit an Iranian fishing trawler, sparking a special forces operation to take the tanker, which has since been broadcast on local television.
— IRIB News Agency (@IribnewsEn) July 21, 2019
Radio conversation between the Iranians, British warship and the Stena Imperio below.
Other British ships in the area have resorted to switching their AIS off while transiting in recent days.
Splash also understands that many shipowners are now discussing quitting the UK ship register, a flag that has already been hard hit in recent months with a significant exodus ahead of Brexit.
The ship and its 23 crew are now anchored in Bandar Abbas. With 18 of the 23 crew, including the master, listed as Indian nationals, New Delhi has called on Tehran to free the crew.
Britain and Iran have been locked in a bitter row ever since a VLCC, Grace 1, carrying Iranian crude oil was seized by British marines in the Strait of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria. The Stena Impero was seized on the day Gibraltar decided to extend the seizure of the Grace 1 by another 30 days.
Ratcheting up the tension between the two sides Iran’s foreign minister Javid Zarif tweeted over the weekend: “Unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action in the Persian Gulf is to uphold int’l maritime rules.”
Meanwhile, Panama on Friday revealed it was in the process of deflagging another tanker captured by Iran. The Riah (pictured), a 1,899 dwt product tanker managed by Dubai’s Prime Tankers, was intercepted south of Iran’s Larak Island on Sunday last week, accused of smuggling 1m litres of fuel.
As well as the Grace 1 in Gibraltar, there have been two other Iranian tankers captured in recent months. One of them, the VLCC Happiness I, which had been stuck in Jeddah after suffering engine failure in April, was released on Saturday.
Splash will be bringing daily updates from the Strait of Hormuz all week.
BREAKING: We now have positive ID's on the vessels that are being held in Iran. STENA IMPERO (@stenabulk) is located outside navy port in Bandar Abbas (left), and RIAH is outside the navy port on Qeshm Island. High-res SkySat imagery by @planetlabs taken today. #OOTT pic.twitter.com/BJvZIVRSSD
— TankerTrackers.com, Inc.⚓️🛢 (@TankerTrackers) July 20, 2019
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) July 20, 2019