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Hunt ‘extremely concerned’ by seizure of two oil tankers in Persian Gulf

UK News | Published:

The Foreign Secretary confirmed that he will attend a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee on Friday night.

Jeremy Hunt has said he is “extremely concerned” by the “unacceptable” seizure of two oil tankers by Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf.

The Foreign Secretary confirmed that he will attend a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee Cobra on Friday night amid the escalation of tensions.

And a second oil tanker, the Liberia-flagged Mesdar, which is owned and operated by Glasgow-based firm Norbulk, appeared to veer off course towards the Iranian coast, according to its path on the Marine Traffic website.

Mr Hunt said he understood that there were no British citizens on board either ship.

Map locates where British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iranians
(PA Graphics)

“I will shortly attend a COBR meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels – a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel.

“Their crews comprise a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship.

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Screengrab taken from www.marinetraffic.com showing the route taken by the Liberia-flagged Mesdar oil tanker
Screengrab taken from www.marinetraffic.com showing the route taken by the Liberia-flagged Mesdar oil tanker (marinetraffic.com/PA)

“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

US President Donald Trump said America would be “working with the UK”.

He told reporters: “We will talk to the UK and we have no written agreement but we have an agreement. They’ve been a very great ally of ours.

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“So we heard about it, we heard it was one, we heard it was two, and we will be working with the UK.”

The company said the tanker was in international waters at the time but now appeared to be heading north towards Iran.

Stena Bulk said: “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 incident follows on from recent heightened tensions in the Gulf involving Iran, the US and UK.

Last week, the Royal Navy warship frigate HMS Montrose drove off three Iranian vessels which tried to stop the commercial ship British Heritage as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz.

Fears were raised that the Iranian authorities were trying to seize a UK ship in retaliation for the detention of the Grace 1 tanker.

The supertanker Grace 1
The supertanker Grace 1 (MoD/PA)

The ship’s captain, chief officer and two second officers were arrested and bailed and an investigation is ongoing.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the tanker’s seizure an act of “piracy” on Tuesday and warned the UK to expect a response.

Mr Hunt offered to help release Grace 1 if Iran guaranteed it would not breach sanctions imposed on Bashar Assad’s regime.

European allies to the US have been urged to take a tougher stance on Iran after Mr Trump withdrew from a nuclear deal with Tehran.

On Thursday, Mr Trump said an American warship shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz – something denied by Iranian military officials.

Last month, Mr Trump said he had made a last-minute decision to call off air strikes in retaliation for the shooting down by Iran of an unmanned US drone.

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