‘Growing concern’ for crew of British-flagged tanker seized by Iran

Concerns are growing for the crew of a British-flagged tanker seized by Iranian forces, with the ship’s owners calling for more action from the Government.

Tanker shipping company Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management have called for more help for the crew of the Stena Impero, which was seized by Iranian forces on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz.

Map locates where British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iranians
(PA Graphics)

Stena Bulk president and chief executive Erik Hanell has urged the Government to take action.

Mr Hanell said: “With little progress being made since the vessel was seized on 19th July, we urge governments involved to find a swift resolution so our 23 valued seafarers can return to their families and move on from this ordeal.

“We reiterate that there is no evidence of a collision involving the Stena Impero, and at the time of the seizure the vessel was well within the inbound traffic separation scheme and out-with Iranian territorial waters.

“All required navigational equipment, including transponders, was fully functioning, in compliance with maritime regulations.”

According to a statement from Stena Bulk, the company has “a growing concern for the welfare of the crew who are confined to the vessel”.

The detention of the Stena Impero follows the seizure of the Grace 1 tanker off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4 in an operation involving Royal Marines.

Tanker Grace 1
Grace 1 (MoD/PA)

The Grace 1 was suspected of violating EU sanctions by carrying a cargo of Iranian oil destined for Syria in breach of sanctions.

Speaking to the BBC, the captain of the Grace 1 accused the Royal Marines of using “brute force” when seizing the tanker.

He said: “We had 28 unarmed crew. I was in a state of shock, everybody was in a state of shock.

“How do you come on a ship like this with armed forces and such brute force. For what reason?”

The Ministry of Defence said Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan has now sailed to the Gulf to join HMS Montrose in escorting merchant vessels.

HMS Duncan has now arrived in the #Gulf to support the safe passage of British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz.

Find out more: https://t.co/GFGU1qN0zjpic.twitter.com/vumqTQc8ZM

— Royal Navy (@RoyalNavy) July 28, 2019

It was previously announced that British-flagged ships travelling in the Strait of Hormuz will be accompanied by a Royal Navy escort, with officials advising shipping companies to travel in convoy.

HMS Montrose has so far escorted 35 shipping vessels through the troubled strait during 20 separate journeys.

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