“UK-flagged ships will soon be able to transit the Strait of Hormuz without close Royal Naval accompaniment,” Reuters quoted a spokesman for the British government as saying on Thursday.
The official alleged that the decision had come “following a decrease in the specific risk of detention of these vessels.”
Tensions broke out between Tehran and London on July 4, after Britain’s naval forces unlawfully seized Iranian-owned oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as Grace 1, and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar. The capture was undertaken under the pretext that the supertanker had been suspected of carrying crude to Syria in violation of the European Union’s unilateral sanctions against the war-torn Arab country.
Tehran condemned the seizure as “maritime piracy,” warning that it would not go unanswered. It also dismissed British officials’ allegation that the vessel had been bound for Syria, while insisting that it was allowed to ship crude to any destination of its choosing.
Gibraltar’s government finally released the Iranian tanker on August 15 despite pressure for the vessel’s continued detainment from the United States, which it seeks to reduce Iran’s oil exports to “zero.”
Two weeks after the Iranian vessel’s detainment, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite defense forces, seized Stena Impero, a 30,000-tonne tanker sailing under the British ensign in the Strait of Hormuz, when it ignored distress calls as it collided with an Iranian fishing boat on its route.
The IRGC said back then that the ship had also used a wrong path to enter the Strait. Iranian officials, meanwhile, strongly refuted claims that the seizure had come in response to the move taken earlier against the Iranian vessel.
In September, Iran released seven crewmembers of the British oil tanker “on humanitarian grounds.” Later, the ports and maritime organization in the Southern Iranian Province of Hormozgan, where Stena Impero had been kept, said the vessel had been allowed to set sail and leave the Iranian waters for Dubai.
The Islamic Republic has vowed to keep selling its crude despite the US pressure to trouble the exports under its illegal sanctions regime policy. Washington returned the bans last year after unilaterally and unlawfully leaving a multilateral nuclear accord with Tehran.
Tehran has also vowed to keep providing security in the Strait of Hormuz and stand guard against potential maritime violations in the indispensable oil shipping route.