Iran's IRGC Seizes U.K.-Flagged Tanker In Strait Of Hormuz
July 19, 2019
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) says it has seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for an alleged failure "to respect international maritime rules."
The ship, the Stena Impero, "was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organization when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules," AFP quoted the IRGC's official website, Sepahnews, as saying.
Iran's official IRNA news agency reported that the tanker had muted its tracker and ignored warnings, a claim that could not be confirmed.
The incident comes with U.S. and Iranian officials still publicly disputing whether a U.S. warship approached by an Iranian drone in the same strait shot down the aircraft on July 18.
The Stena Impero's owner and operator, Stena Bulk and Northern Marine, said in identical statements on their websites that there were 23 seafarers aboard the tanker and that they were unable to contact the vessel. They said there were no reported injuries.
U.K. officials are "urgently seeking further information" about the incident, according to CNN.
Stena Bulk and Marine Management said that they "can confirm that at approximately 1600 BST on 19th July UK registered vessel Stena Impero (built 2018, 49,683 DWT) was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters. We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran."
Vesselfinder.com lists the Stena Impero as a chemical- and oil-products tanker built in 2018 and currently sailing under the flag of the United Kingdom.
The same site says its destination was the Saudi port of Jubail and its estimated arrival was the morning of July 21.
U.S. President Donald Trump said after the Stena Impero seizure that he would talk to the U.K. government, and earlier the White House said Trump had already discussed Iran and the imperative of not allowing Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Trump and other U.S. officials have said that the USS Boxer "destroyed" an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 after it threatened the ship by flying to within 1,000 meters of it and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
Less than a month ago, Iranian forces reportedly shot down a U.S. drone that Tehran said was flying over Iranian territory, a claim that Washington rejected.
That incident was said to have prompted Trump to order U.S. forces to prepare for a retaliatory air strike against Iran that was called off at the last minute.
Trump has since called on other countries to condemn what he says are Iran's attempts to disrupt the freedom of navigation and global commerce in the Persian Gulf region, where massive supplies of oil are transported every day.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, CNN, Press TV, Vesselfinder.com, and AP
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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