LONDON: The British government told its commercial vessels to avoid the strategic Strait of Hormuz after Iranian forces seized a UK-flagged oil tanker there, prompting a row with London.
“We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period,” a government spokesperson said on Saturday. The decision was made after the cabinet convened for an emergency meeting in Whitehall.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized British-flagged and Swedish-owned oil tanker Stena Impero, which they said violated maritime rules while sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. According to Iranian officials, the tanker ignored a “distress call” from an Iranian fishing boat.
The vessel was taken to Iran’s southern port city of Bandar Abbas. There were no reports of injuries among the crew of 23, none of whom are British nationals. The vessel’s operator denies any wrongdoing.
The British government promised a “considered and robust” response and warned Tehran of “serious consequences if the situation is not resolved.”
The incident follows another one, involving both nations. On July 4, Britain along with its dependency Gibraltar seized a Panama-flagged and Singaporean-owned supertanker off the southern coast of Spain, which it suspected of delivering oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Iran said the ship is Iranian but denied any wrongdoing, branding the seizure an act of “piracy.”
The narrow Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the open ocean, is one the world’s most strategically important shipping routes.