By Mac Molli
Iran seized a British oil tanker, Stena Impero, at 8:30 pm local time on Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf with the Arabian Sea. Allah-Morad Afifipour, the head of Ports and Maritime Organization in southern Hormozgan Province stated the 30,000 ton tanker, which was reportedly carrying no cargo, had collided with a fishing boat on its route and investigation must take place after an accident according to law.
Tehran Times reported that following the collision, the crew on-board the fishing vessel contracted the British tanker but received no response, so they informed the Hormozgan Maritime Organization. Afifipour said the tanker had been taken by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard to Bandar Abbas port where the vessel and its crew are being kept while the investigation is carried out. This comes one day after the United States reportedly shot down an Iranian drone that closed in on the U.S.S. Boxer’s position in the Strait of Hormuz.
Afifipour stated, “The investigation into the cause of the accident has started today, all its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over. If necessary, and at the request of judicial authorities, the crew may be summoned for technical and specialist interviews.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Saturday, “Unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action in the Persian Gulf is to uphold int’l maritime rules. As I said in NY, it is IRAN that guarantees the security of the Persian Gulf & the Strait of Hormuz. UK must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, issues his statement condemning the seizure saying, “I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz. I will shortly attend COBR (Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) 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. 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.”
The British defense minister, Penny Mordaunt, said in an interview with Sky News on Saturday that the ship had been intercepted in Omani, not Iranian waters and called the seizure “a hostile act.” This comes two weeks after British forces impounded an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar and is the latest escalation of hostility between Iran and the West. According to the New York Times, a fifth of the world’s crude oil supply is shipped from the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz just off the coast of Iran, and caused oil prices to spike on Friday even before the British issued their warning.
Britain made a big push to preserve the 2015 Nuclear Deal along with other European powers. Britain accepted Iran’s to restart its nuclear program justified under the terms of the deal as responses to the reimposed sanctions brought on by the United States. However, according to diplomats, Britain is skeptical of Iran and sympathetic to the White House. If Britain decides to re-impose its own sanctions on Iran, it could completely eliminate any hope of preserving the nuclear deal.