Iran warning: Protect British tankers in the Gulf, shipping bosses urge Government
But patrols are unlikely to be stepped up in the near future with the UK keen to “de-escalate” the situation, a security source said on Thursday. Mr Sanguinetti, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, was speaking after the attempted seizure of BP oil tanker Britiish Heritage in Gulf waters by three Iranian ships, who were warned off after HMS Montrose, which was escorting the vessel, intervened. The incident occurred days after the boarding and seizure by Royal Marines of an Iranian vessel, the Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar which was believed to be taking two million barrels of oil to Syria, in violation of EU sanctions.
The recent intervention by the HMS Montrose within the Strait of Hormuz has illustrated the vital importance that the Royal Navy continues to play in safeguarding UK commercial interests abroad
Commenting on the heightened tensions, Mr Sanguinetti said: “UK shipowners are in regular contact with the relevant authorities and agencies regarding the security situation in the region.
“The recent intervention by the HMS Montrose within the Strait of Hormuz has illustrated the vital importance that the Royal Navy continues to play in safeguarding UK commercial interests abroad.”
Mr Sanguinetti said 30 UK-flagged vessels – ships registered in the UK, Isle of Man or Cayman Islands – passed through the Gulf each day.
Meanwhile, almost five percent of UK oil and 13 percent of UK gas moves directly through the Straits of Hormuz.
Speaking to Reuters, the source said London would be resolute in defending its maritime interests in the Gulf but did not want to escalate the situation with Iran.
Mr Sanguinetti commented: “Freedom of the Seas is an important principle enshrined in international law.
“While we wholeheartedly back a de-escalation within the region, it is also true that British shipping must feel confident in its ability to trade through one of the most economically important shipping lanes in the world.
“Any action to stop or impede the innocent passage of merchant shipping is wholly unacceptable, and steps must be taken to ensure the legal and safe passage of all merchant ships in the region.
“The UK Chamber of Shipping welcomes US plans for a ‘coalition of allies’ to patrol the waters off Iran and Yemen, and will support all measures and international initiatives that preserve international law and protect the lives and wellbeing of innocent seafarers.”
Speaking of the seizure of Grace 1, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “This is a dangerous game and we advise them not get involved in this game under America’s influence.”
He added: “We ask them again to release the tanker immediately, which will be in all countries’ interest.”
Earlier today an oil tanker flying the Union Jack and carrying two million barrels of crude oil sailed through the Strait of Hormuz – just days after the attempted interception of the BP vessel.
Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt said today tensions in the Gulf make the case for strengthening the Royal Navy.
Mr Hunt, who claimed “we have run down the navy too much” in recent decades, promised to add more warships to the fleet if he become Prime Minister.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hunt, the son of an admiral, said: “Three vessels from a foreign military power tried to seize a British ship conducting its rightful business.
“The simplicity of these words belies the incredible menace behind Iran’s actions. Not for the first time, Britain’s interests were defended by the Royal Navy.”
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