The Iranian authorities on Friday probably effected its threats of not taking the seizure of its tanker the ‘Grace 1’ lying low, as in what can be best described as tit for tat measure, also seized a British-flagged, Swedish-owned oil tanker, the 46,575 cbm ship, Stena Impero, while transiting the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.
The Stena Impero according to the World Maritime News, was ‘captured’ for “breaching international maritime law”, quoting a Tehran-based Press TV report, referring to a statement issued by the country’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Another vessel, an oil tanker, the 315,000 dwt Mesdar which though managed by Norbulk Shipping UK, but flies the Liberian flag was also seized by the Iranian Authorities. Though the second oil tanker was boarded by Iranian armed personnel on Friday and instructed to head north towards Iran. It was however, soon cleared to resume its voyage, because it flew the Liberian flag.
“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,” Norbulk said in a statement released on late Friday.
But of the first ship, Stena Impero, the ship has since turned off its tracker, having been boarded by IRGC armed guards.
The vessel was also accused of reportedly failing to respond to a distress call sent by an Iranian fishing boat.
The Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) was cited as saying that the vessel had also been releasing oil residues from its tanks.
Stena Impero’s owner Stena Bulk and ship manager Northern Marine Management confirmed that the 2018-built tanker was approached by small naval craft and a helicopter at around 16:00 BST on July 19. The vessel suddenly deviated from its passage to Jubail and headed north towards Iran. Neither the vessel owner nor the operator were able to establish contact with Stena Impero.
“There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality. There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus. We are in close contact with both the UK and Swedish government authorities to resolve this situation and we are liaising closely with our seafarers’ families,” Erik Hanell, President and Chief Executive, Stena Bulk, said.
In a swift reaction however, the British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he is “extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz”.
“The seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region,” Hunt pointed out.
Tensions between the UK and Iran mounted in early July when Gibraltar and Royal Marines detained the Iranian tanker Grace 1 on suspicion it was carrying a shipment of crude oil to Syria.
The ship was arrested due to the alleged breach of EU sanctions against Syria. Although Gibraltar claimed it was enforcing the existing sanctions, Iran described the seizure as unlawful as the country is not an EU member.
No detailed reaction has so far been received from either the EU or the NATO.