A British warship escorted a tanker through the Mideast Gulf Wednesday after Iranian naval forces threatened to seize it in the latest incident rattling one of the busiest maritime trade lanes.
The Ministry of Defense said that the HMS Montrose “ensured the safe passage of the merchant vessel British Heritage through the Strait of Hormuz.”
International oil major BP owns the British Heritage, which is capable of carrying 1 million barrels of crude oil.
News reports indicate that three Iranian ships confronted the British Heritage before the intervention of the HMS Montrose.
The seizure ostensibly was related to European Union sanctions on trading with Syria. But Iranian officials have said the vessel arrest was done on behalf of the U.S., which reimposed sanctions on Iran for violating terms of a nuclear disarmament treaty.
In response to the arrest of the Grace 1, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps vowed to retaliate.
The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passage between Iran and the United Arab Emirates, is the most important transit point for the world’s oil supply. About 21 million barrels of oil are carried through the Strait daily, accounting for about one-fifth of world oil supply and about one-third of seaborne supply.
Iran has been threatening shipping interests in the region since the U.S. started enforcing sanctions on the country and urging other nations not to buy Iranian crude.
This week Panalpina joined a list of ocean carriers announcing war risk surcharges.