Iranian military boats tried to seize a British tanker near the Strait of Hormuz after threats this would happen following the seizure by Gibraltar of an Iranian tanker carrying crude for Syria.
CNN quotes two U.S. Army officials as saying five Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps approached the British Heritage vessel as it was sailing into the Strait of Hormuz and ordered it to change course. The vessel, however, was escorted by a Royal Navy frigate, which threatened to shoot if the Iranians did not back away, which they did, the U.S. officials said. There was a U.S. aircraft in the sky where the encounter happened and the personnel in it recorded it on video, according to the officials.
The same sources spoke to Reuters, with one of them detailing the confrontation: “The Royal Navy HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed it guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed. It was harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage.”
The report follows a threat from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that the UK will face “consequences” for seizing its tanker. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has denied the report but the UK government confirmed the event today.
Gibraltar last Thursday detained a super tanker carrying crude oil to Syria because it had “reasonable grounds” to believe that the Grace 1 ship was violating European Union sanctions against Syria, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said in a statement. Related: WTI Spikes Above $60 For First Time In Nearly Two Months
Gibraltar has reason to believe that the super tanker was carrying crude oil to Syria’s Banyas Refinery, which is owned by an entity subject to European Union sanctions against Syria, Picardo said.
The Grace 1 had sailed from the Persian Gulf all the way around Africa and was seized at the mouth of the Mediterranean.
The U.S. is currently trying to create an international coalition to ensure the passage of tankers through the Strait of Hormuz amid escalating tension between Washington and Tehran, and now London. Despite rising U.S. oil production, Middle Eastern oil accounts for a sizeable portion of global demand and if Iran moves to block the Strait of Hormuz or interfere with the passage of tankers through it in any other way, this would shock markets.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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