Iran has seized a UK-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, despite the attempted intervention of the Royal Navy, reports Sky News.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard boarded the vessel via helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz Friday, accusing the vessel of breaking maritime navigational regulations.
The UK denies the claims and says Iran’s actions are illegal.
Audio of the exchange between the vessels, published by Sky News, shows the HMS Montrose tried to intervene to help the Stena Impero, but to no avail.
In the audio, the Revolutionary Guard can be heard telling the Stena Impero: “If you obey, you will be safe.
“Alter your course to 360 degrees immediately, over.”
After that message, the HMS Montrose communicates with the Stena Impero, saying: “This is British warship F236.
“I reiterate, that as you are conducting transit passage in a recognised international strait, under international law your passage must not be impaired, impeded, obstructed or hampered.
“Please confirm you are conducting transit passage in a recognised international strait.”
The vessels continue to communicate, reiterating their stances and at one point, the Iranians say they do not intend to challenge the Stena Impero.
However, the ship was then seized by the Iranian Navy and escorted into Bandar Abbas port. Her crew of 12 men from India, Latvia, the Philippines and Russia are reportedly safe and well on-board.
The UK’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has demanded that Iran release the tanker, but told local media the government is focusing on diplomatic efforts for its release.
British defence minister Tobias Ellwood meanwhile has said that the UK is looking at sanctions against Iran over the issue, as well as other options.
“We are going to be looking at a series of options,” he said.
Iran suggested the seizure was in response to the UK’s role in detaining a tanker carrying Iranian oil earlier this month, despite initially saying the British-flagged tanker was held because it collided with an Iranian fishing boat.
A spokesperson for Iran’s Guardian Council said “the rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law”.
Iranian state media earlier released footage showing the moment the Stena Impero was seized.
In the footage, armed troops wearing ski masks are seen rappelling onto the ship’s deck from a helicopter hovering overhead.
Hunt insisted the tanker, the Stena Impero, had been seized in Omani waters in “clear contravention of international law”, and condemned the move as “totally and utterly unacceptable”.
“It raises very serious questions about the security of British shipping, and indeed international shipping, in the strait of Hormuz,” he said.