21 july 2019
Iran’s military has released footage showing its elite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Special Forces impounding the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. A second tanker, Mesdar, was also boarded briefly.
Iran says the vessel was failing to respect international maritime laws in the Persian Gulf, with Iranian media claiming the seized tanker was using the exit lane to enter into the Strait of Hormuz and almost colliding with other vessels.
Britain rejected Iran’s claim about the tanker and instead called the seizure a hostile act. The incident follows threats from Iran to retaliate for Britain’s seizure of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria.
The U.K. government, supported by France and Germany, has demanded that Iran immediately release the Stena Empero and crew and avoid “escalating tensions down a dangerous path,” reports Dryad. The U.K. government has called for all U.K. interest vessels to avoid the area.
Meanwhile, Spire Maritime has provided tracking data indicating that the U.K.-flagged tanker Mesdar that was boarded briefly by Iranian forces on Friday continues to follow an unusual path.
Vessel Tracking Satellite Data provided by Spire Maritime, a division of Spire Global.
The U.S. has stated that it intends to deploy additional forces to Saudi Arabia in response to threats within the region. The kingdom has not hosted U.S. combat forces since 2003 but has approved the move to strengthen regional security and stability. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have worsened after Iran shot down a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz last month and the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone last week.
Dryad says, in the interests of business continuity, charterers and technical managers are advised to consider the chartering of non-U.K. connected vessels in the medium to long term. It is the assessment of Dryad that Chinese-flagged vessels currently represent the lowest risk of interruption within the Strait of Hormuz and are highly unlikely to experience any form of disruption by way of detention. “The U.K. is unlikely to yield to threats from Iran, and the detention of a U.K.-flagged vessel is highly likely to have had a significant impact on Iranian diplomatic efforts to release the Grace 1.”