Amid West And Iran Standoff, Iranian Media Says British Tanker Seized Because Of Collision

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Iran irked the West after seizing a British-flagged oil tanker, which they alleged was due to collision with an Iranian fishing boat, the Iranian news agency reported.

Written By Aishwaria Sonavane | Mumbai | Updated On:

Iran irked the West after seizing a British-flagged oil tanker, which they alleged was due to collision with an Iranian fishing boat, the Iranian news agency reported.

The British tanker reportedly caused damage to the fishing boat, then didn't respond to calls from the smaller craft. The fishing boat informed Iran's Ports and Maritime

The organisation, which notified the Revolutionary Guard. IRNA reported that the Revolutionary Guard vessels directed the Stena Impero to an Iranian port for an investigation on Friday and that the crew remained on board the ship as per safety regulations.

Iran's attempt to offer a "technical" explanation for seizing the tanker could signal a possible de-escalation of tensions in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which has become a flashpoint between Tehran and the West.

Another British ship was briefly detained by Iran on Friday before being allowed to go.

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The seizure of the Britain tanker became a crucial escalation of tensions between Iran and the West that gained momentum following the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration last year and spiraled since May.

At that time, the U.S. announced it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and additional troops to the Middle East, citing unspecified threats posed by Iran.

The ongoing showdown between the two nations has caused jitters around the globe, with each maneuver bringing apprehensions that any misstep by either side would plunge into a state of war.

Details of what took place on Friday remained sketchy after Iran reported that it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf is a shipping channel for one-fifth of all global crude exports.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) on said Friday that the Stena Impero had been taken into port because it was not complying with "international maritime laws and regulations."

A statement from Stena Bulk, which owns the seized tanker, said it was unable to make contact with the ship after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in international waters. A spokesman for the company's owners said the tanker was in "full compliance with all navigation and international regulations."

The company said the tanker had 23 crew members of out of which 18 were Indian, rest were Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationalities and there have been no reports of any of them bearing any injuries. 

The U.K. has featured prominently in the recent tensions with Iran. Britain's Royal Marines assisted in the seizure of an Iranian oil supertanker on July 4 by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain. Britain said it would release the vessel if Iran could prove it was not breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt initially said that the two tankers were seized Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, the second sailing under a Liberian flag.

The owner of the Liberian-flagged tanker later said the ship was briefly boarded by armed guards before being allowed to go. Iran's semi-official Fars news agency tweeted that the Mesdar had left Iran's territorial waters.

Hunt called the seizures "unacceptable" and stressed the importance of freedom of navigation, as he prepared to enter an emergency government meeting on Friday night.

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"We're not looking at military options, we're looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation, but we are very clear that it must be resolved," Hunt later told Sky News, warning that if the situation is not resolved quickly "there will be serious consequences."

US President Donald Trump said that the US officials would talk with Britain about the unfolding crisis.

"This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran: Trouble, nothing but trouble," he said.

Central Command said the US. has intensified air patrols over the Strait of Hormuz in response to the seizure.

The incident occurred two days after Washington claimed that a US warship had downed an Iranian drone in the Strait. However, the claim was explicitly denied by Iran, and even released footage of the same to disprove US's claims.

On June 20, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating but called off an airstrike at the last moment, as per his claims.

Tensions flared after Trump withdrew the US from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal signed by former US President Obama, with world leaders. Next, he imposed economic sanctions on Iran, including oil imports. Iran's aggressive is evidence that the sanctions hit the country's economy hard.  

Iran's government has desperately tried to get out of the chokehold, pressuring the other partners in the nuclear deal, particularly European nations, to pressure the U.S. to lift the crippling sanctions.

The Europeans — Germany, France, Britain, and the European Union — want to maintain the deal, but have not been able to address Iranian demands without violating the sanctions. Iran has begun breaching some of the restrictions on its activities outlined in the agreement to put pressure on them to find a solution.

In the brawl between the two nations, the US has asked assistance from the middle east allies like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in the past weeks seeking military and financial contribution to a Trump administration proposal called the Sentinel Program — a coalition of nations working with the U.S. to preserve maritime security in the Persian Gulf and keep eyes on Iran.

Late Friday, officials said the U.S. is sending several hundred troops as well as aircraft and air defense missiles to Saudi Arabia as part of its increased military presence in the region. The move has been in the works for many weeks and is not a response to Friday's seizure by Iran of a British tanker.

Saudi Arabia King Salman approved hosting U.S. armed forces in the kingdom "to increase joint cooperation in defense and regional security and stability," a statement in the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

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Maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz has deteriorated in recent weeks after six attacks on oil tankers that the U.S. has blamed on Iran — an allegation the Islamic Republic denies.

The incidents have jolted the shipping industry, with some of the 2,000 companies operating ships in the region on high alert and many ordering their vessels to transit the Strait of Hormuz only during the daylight hours and at high speed.

Of the roughly 2,000 companies that operate ships in the Persian Gulf, only a handful of companies have halted bookings outright.

U.K.-flagged vessels represented less than 0.6% of the 67,533 ships sailing through the Strait of Hormuz in 2018, with 427 transits, according to maritime publication Lloyd's. Crude oil prices climbed following Iran's announcement about the Stena Impero as traders worried the escalating tensions could affect crude supplies.

(With AP inputs) 

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