Iran news: Government blasted over ‘little progress’ made to bring UK tanker crew home

Iran authorities seized the cargo with all crew members on board on July 19 at a time of great tension between the Iranian Government and the international community. The British Government ordered Tehran release the oil-carrying cargo ship if their government wants to be welcomed as a “responsible member” of civil society. But with Iran failing to comply, Stena Impero’s owners have urged Boris Johnson to seek a “swift resolution” to get both their men and tanker back. 

Stena Bulk president Erik Hanell said: “With little progress being made since the vessel was seized on July 19, 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.”

The Stena Impero was seized while passing through the Strait of Hormuz, between the Persian and Oman Gulfs, days after Gibraltar took control of Iranian-owned vessel Grace 1 over concerns the boat would break sanctions on transporting crude oil to Syria. 

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We have formally asked Germany to help along with France and the UK to secure the Strait of Hormuz

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were reported to have previously attempted to board another British oil tanker, the Heritage. Iran has denied the claims. 

Due to the growing tension in the Strait of Hormuz, US President Donald Trump urged international partners to form an alliance to fend off Iran’s threats.

A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Berlin said earlier this week: “We have formally asked Germany to help along with France and the UK to secure the Strait of Hormuz and to fight Iranian aggression.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has however warned “the presence of foreign forces” in the region would only contribute to heighten tensions in the Gulf.

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But government partners to Angela Merkel have urged the German Chancellor to avoid having the US drag Berlin into a conflict with Iran.

Niels Schmid, foreign affairs spokesperson for the German Social Democrats (SDP), said: “The German government has already rejected participation in the US military mission, Operation Sentinel, to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz

“It should stay like that. Otherwise, there is a risk of being pulled into a war against Iran on the side of the United States.”

Despite the US, France and the UK reportedly coming together to face pressure from Iran, Iranian Navy Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi has confirmed Tehran is planning to join Russia to carry out military drills ins the Strait of Hormuz. 

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Russian news agency TASS reported Rear Admiral Khanzadi saying: “A joint Russian-Iranian exercise is expected to be held shortly in the Indian Ocean.

“The exercise may also be held in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, including in the Strait of Hormuz.”

The British Government deployed a second warship to the region to provide security support to Britsih vessels passing through the strait.

HMS Duncan joined HMS Montrose to escort British-flagged ships transiting in the area, with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace saying: “Freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is vital not just to the UK, but also our international partners and allies. Merchant ships must be free to travel lawfully and trade safely, anywhere in the world.

“I’m pleased that HMS Duncan will continue HMS Montrose’s fine work in helping to secure this essential route.

“While we continue to push for a diplomatic resolution that will make this possible again without military accompaniment, the Royal Navy will continue to provide a safeguard for UK vessels until this is the reality.”

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