Iran said its Revolutionary Guards captured a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday for violating international water rules, escalating tensions in the global oil trade’s most critical waterway.
The seizure, of Stena Impero, comes two weeks after the British navy seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions against Syria. Tehran last week threated to retaliate for the capture of its vessel.
Britain said Iran seized two oil tankers on Friday, but Iran’s semi-official Tasmin news agency said the second vessel, the British-operated Mesdar, had not been seized. It said the ship had been allowed to continue its course after being given a warning over safety and environmental issues.
Tasnim said the Stena Impero had been causing pollution by dumping oil residue and “not following international maritime regulations,” while an Iranian military source said the Stena Impero “had turned off its tracker and ignored several warnings by the Guards before being captured,” the official IRNA state news agency reported.
The two tankers, Stena Impero and Mesdar, according to Refinitiv shipping data tracking, changed direction sharply within 40 minutes of each other shortly after entering the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz towards the Iranian coast, but Mesdar later headed westward back into the Gulf.
Brent crude price slipped to $61.34 on Thursday before rising to as much as 63.27 on Friday, before closing on $62.65.
“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,” British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said to reporter according to Reuters.
“We will respond in a way that is considered but robust and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences.”
Hunt said Britain was “not looking at military options, we are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation.” Reuters said the British Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt called the incident a “hostile act”.
The incident occurs after U.S. said it shot down an Iranian drone, which Tehran has denied.
Also on Friday, Gibraltar’s Supreme Court granted a 30-extension to allow authorities to detail an Iranian oil taker Grace 1, until August 15. Iran has repeatedly called for the ship’s release, denies the allegation that the tanker was taking oil to Syria in violation of sanctions and says Gibraltar and Britain seized the vessel on the orders of Washington.