British officials are now accusing Iran of not just capturing the Stena Impero, but a second tanker as well. Iran has denied this, and the other British ship, the Mesdar, has changed course to move away from Iran.
In a move that is likely to hugely raise tensions in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have captured a British-flagged oil tanker, the Stena Impero, and have detained some 23 crew members.
The Stena Impero is described as a British-flagged but Swedish-owned 30,000 tonne tanker. The tanker was heading to Saudi Arabia at the time of its capture, but diverted into Iranian waters when approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter.
The Revolutionary Guard made claims of unspecified violations of maritime law as the reason for the capture, though one cannot help but link this to the recent British capture of the Grace 1, an Iranian oil tanker taken near the Strait of Gibraltar, which continues to be held.
US officials issued a statement confirming they were aware of the seizure of the tanker, saying the US remains committed to defending its interests in the region “against Iran’s malign behavior.”
Iran had previously moved to seize a smaller British tanker last week, but that tanker had a naval escort that chased off the Iranian boats. This tanker appears to have had no escort, though since it was en route to Saudi Arabia it was also likely empty, and considered a low-value target.