TWO British oil tankers with dozens of crew on board were seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards less than an hour apart today in the Gulf.
The Government’s Cobra committee is holding an emergency meeting in Whitehall tonight after the Stena Impero and Mesdar were halted by troops in speedboats and helicopters and diverted to Iran.
British-flagged Stena Impero was sailing to the Saudi port of Jubail but map tracking data shows it veered off course with a sharp turn north at around 4.17pm UK time.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA said it had been “impounded” and claimed the tanker had turned off its tracker, ignored warnings from the Revolutionary Guards and was sailing in the wrong direction in a shipping lane.
State-controlled TV claimed the ship was seized because it was “violating international maritime rules”.
Less than an hour later at around 5pm the Mesdar – Liberian-flagged but operated by the UK firm Norbulk Shipping UK – also turned sharply north towards Iran’s coast after passing westward through the Strait.
Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported regional military sources saying the vessel had been allowed to continue its journey after armed troops boarded and issued a warning.
Tracking data indicated the Mesdar had changed direction a second time and started heading west into the Gulf.
A statement from Norbulk said: “Communication has been re-established with the vessel and Master confirmed that the armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage. All crew are safe and well.”
But the Impero was taken to an Iranian port along with its 23 crew. It is thought no British citizens were on board either ship.