The US has called for an international naval force to patrol the area around the Strait of Hormuz in the light of increased tensions in the area.
For example, a BP Suezmax had been approached by three Iranian naval vessels earlier while sailing in the Arabian Gulf towards the Strait.
“Three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, ‘British Heritage’, through the Strait of Hormuz,” a UK Government spokesman confirmed. ‘HMS Montrose’, a UK Royal Navy frigate, positioned herself between the Iranian vessels and ‘British Heritage’ and issued verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps have since denied any involvement in the incident.
The Suezmax, scheduled to load oil in Iraq for Europe, had remained inside the Gulf earlier in the week in ballast over concerns Iran could seize her in a tit-for-tat response to the arrest of the VLCC ‘Grace 1’ by British forces off Gilbraltar.
On Thursday, she was reported to be sailing off the coast of Oman, according to Marine Traffic.
‘HMS Montrose’ had also shadowed the Isle of Man registered, MOL controlled VLCC ’Pacific Voyager’ for part of her voyage towards Hormuz.
She had left Ras Tanura on 7th July loaded with Saudi crude.
‘Grace 1’ was stopped, as she was said to be loaded with Iranian crude allegedly bound for Syria, which is in breach of EU sanctions.
The Gibraltar authorities have since confirmed that the VLCC’s senior officers were taken ashore and arrested. The authorities also claimed that they could legitimately hold the vessel for at least 14 days.
The VLCC was detained last week when it sailed into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters to a point two miles off the Eastern side of Gibraltar, having previously exited international waters of the Straits of Gibraltar, on a pre-arranged call for provisions and spare parts, the Gibraltar Government said.
Her detention related to the suspected destination of the cargo, the Banyas refinery in Syria, which is owned by the Banyas Oil Refinery Co. This company is the subject of European Union sanctions under EU Regulation 36/2012, which is directly applicable in Gibraltar.