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UK calls emergency meeting to discuss shipping security in Gulf

THE UK's Prime Minister Theresa May has chaired an emergency response Cobra committee meeting to discuss ways to tighten maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz after Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized the UK-flagged product tanker Stena Impero in this sea passage on Friday

23 July 2019 - 19:00

THE UK's Prime Minister Theresa May has chaired an emergency response Cobra committee meeting to discuss ways to tighten maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz after Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized the UK-flagged product tanker Stena Impero in this sea passage on Friday.

UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned Iran of 'serious consequences', and called on Iran to observe the rules that safeguard commercial shipping and for Iran to release the tanker and its crew, describing its seizure as 'state piracy'.



UK shipping in the region has all but halted after the UK Department for Transport requested all British-flagged ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz until further notice, having raised the threat level to 'critical' for UK ships in Iranian waters, reported UK's Lloyd's List.



In a statement to members of UK's parliament, Mr Hunt said the tanker was seized while passing through Omani territorial waters and in full compliance with international laws.



Mr Hunt said that Iran's seizure of the tanker was 'a flagrant breach of the principle of free navigation on which the global trading system and world economy ultimately depends'.



In a letter to the president of the United Nations Security Council the UK earlier stated: 'Current tensions are extremely concerning, and our priority is to de-escalate.



'We do not seek confrontation with Iran. But it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to threaten shipping going about its legitimate business through internationally recognised transit corridors'.



The Stena Impero is currently being held by the Iranian authorities at anchor just off Bandar Abbas port. The 23 crew members, who are Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino, have been taken off the ship for 'questioning', Iran's Press TV has reported.



There are eight UK-flagged vessels over 10,000 dwt in the Persian Gulf, all at anchor. These include four chemical tankers, a liquefied petroleum gas carrier, a naval auxiliary vessel, a containership, and one general cargo ship with container capacity.



While the threat remains targeted to UK ships, the UK Chamber of Shipping has argued that an international response is now need to resolve an international problem.



'We are working closely with [the government] on restoring confidence and security among the shipping community so that trade can continue to flow freely through the region over the coming days,' UK Chamber of Shipping chief executive Bob Sanguinetti told Lloyd's List on Sunday evening.



While Mr Sanguinetti has declined to comment on whether the current deployment of naval assets is sufficient, he is of the opinion that the shipping community needs to be reassured by the presence of adequate support to guarantee their safety and security.



'We mustn't forget that, looking beyond the specific incident, Iranian activity in the past two months has had an impact on the interests of over 20 countries - this is an international problem. It requires an international solution,' Mr Sanguinetti was quoted as saying.


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