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Port Report: Mideast flares again as U.K. thwarts Iranian ship seizure

Latest incident comes after U.K. arrests a ship carrying Iranian crude oil.

A British warship escorted a tanker through the Mideast Gulf yesterday after Iranian naval forces threatened to seize it, 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 one million barrels of crude oil. 

News reports indicate that three Iranian ships confronted the British Heritage before the intervention of the HMS Montrose.

The incident comes in the wake of the U.K.’s move off the coast of Gibraltar earlier in July to seize the Grace 1, an oil tanker that was reportedly carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria.

The seizure was ostensibly 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.

In June, two tankers were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. alleged Iran was behind the attacks, but it denied any involvement.

Concerns about the growing risks in the Mideast have led container lines and forwarders to impose war risk surcharges for shippers. 

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Michael Angell, Bulk and Intermodal Editor

Michael Angell covers maritime, intermodal and related topics for FreightWaves. His interest in transportation stretches back several generations. One great-grandfather was a dray horseman along the New York waterfront and another was a railway engineer in Texas. More recently, Michael has written about the shipping industry for TradeWinds, energy markets for Oil Price Information Service, and general business topics for FactSet Mergerstat and Investor's Business Daily. When he is not stuck in the office, he enjoys tours of ports, terminals, and railyards.

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