Tensions flared between the UK and Iran as the Persian state seized two British-owned oil tankers in the Gulf.

The Stena Impero and Liberian MV Mesdar were both captured in the Strait of Horduz, in the Persian Gulf, and boarded by armed guards.

The Mesdar was later released and allowed to continue its voyage, with all crew said to be “safe and well”. It is unclear what the status of the Stena Impero is, however.

The crisis emerged after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard told state TV they had seized the Stena Impero oil vessel after it strayed into Iranian waters in the Strait of Hormuz. 

It comes after the UK seized the Iranian tanker, Grace 1, off the course of Gibraltar on July 4.

It was suspected of carrying oil bound for Syria, in breach of EU sanctions. The apparent tit-for-tat retaliation by Iran yesterday is being seen as a way of forcing a deal with the UK for the return of Grace 1.

Iran’s semi-official news agency, Fars, said the Stena Impero had been “violating international maritime rules”.

 

HeraldScotland:

However, the tanker’s owner Stena Bulk have disputed this. It said the tanker was in international waters at the time.

Mr Hunt said there were no British citizens on either vessel, and described the seizure as “unacceptable”.

He added: “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.” 

It is believed the Stena Impero was captured around 4.18pm local time (5.18pm BST). The Stena Impero was en route between Kandla in western India and the Port of Jubail in Saudi Arabia at the time of being seized. In a statement, Stena Bulk said ship manager – Clydebank-based Northern Marine Management – had lost contact with the crew of 23 after “unidentified small crafts and a helicopter” approached the vessel.

The company added: “There are 23 seafarers aboard. There have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers.

“The priority of both vessel owner Stena Bulk and ship manager Northern Marine Management is the safety and welfare of the crew.

“We are in close contact with UK government authorities.”

The operator of the Mesdar tanker, Glasgow-based Norbulk Shipping UK, said communication had been re-established with the ship after it was boarded by armed guards at around 5.30pm on Friday.

In statement last night, it said: “Communication has been re-established with the vessel and Master confirmed that the armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage. All crew are safe and well.”

A spokeswoman from the UK’s Ministry of Defence said: “We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation.”

It comes after a war of words broke out between the US and Iran over the fate of an unmanned drone. President Donald Trump said the USS Boxer had shot down a drone belonging to Iran on Thursday after it came within 1,000 yards of the American warship and ignored repeated warnings to back off. However, Iran later denied that the drone belonged to Iran.

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A spokeswoman from the UK's Ministry of Defence said: "We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf."

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson tweeted that the situation was "a matter of real concern"


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It comes after a war of words broke out between the US and Iran in the past 24 hours over the fate of an unmanned drone.

President Donald Trump told a White House press conference on Thursday that the USS Boxer had shot down a drone belonging to Iran after it came within 1000 yards of the American warship and ignored repeated warnings to back off.

However, Iran later denied that the drone belonged to Iran and suggested the US had shot down one of its own drones by mistake.