Iran seizes second UK-linked tanker in Persian Gulf

MV Mesdar seen to veer sharply towards Islamic republic

Jon Sharman
Friday 19 July 2019 21:42
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News anchor reads Iranian statment which says it has seized British oil tanker near Strait of Hormuz

Iran has seized a second British-linked tanker in the Persian Gulf.

The Liberian-flagged, UK-owned MV Mesdar was seen to have slowed before turning sharply towards Iran.

The ship's operator, Glasgow-based Norbulk Shipping UK, said it was boarded by armed guards at around 5.30pm BST on Friday.

Around five hours later however, it said communication had 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.''

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, condemned the seizure, saying he was “extremely concerned” and would convene a Cobra emergency committee.

He added: “Their crews comprise a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship. Our ambassador in Tehran is in contact with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the situation and we are working closely with international partners.

“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.”

Iran's Revolutionary Guards denied they had captured the Mesdar, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, quoting regional military sources.

"Despite reports, the ship has not been seized ... and was allowed to continue its course after being warned about safety issues by Iranian forces," the report said.

However, the ship's owner insisted that the incident took place, hours after the Stena Impero oil tanker was seized by the Revolutionary Guard in the Strait of Hormuz.

Earlier, Bob Sanguinetti, the chairman of the UK Chamber of Shipping called Iran’s actions “an escalation” and called for greater protections for merchant vessels.

The seizures came weeks after British Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar amid suspicions it was being used to breach international sanctions against Syria. Iran’s supreme leader vowed to retaliate.

Tensions have flared in recent weeks as negotiations over the future of the Iran nuclear deal have faltered.

Tehran has vowed to break the agreement’s terms by returning to uranium enrichment after Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal and imposed tough economic sanctions.

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