RNA - “Unlike Britain’s piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, where it illegally confiscated an Iranian oil tanker, Iran’s measure [in the Persian Gulf] has been completely legal and in line with maritime regulations and security,” Shamkhani said in a meeting with visiting Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi on Saturday.
“We believe that all countries need to respect international maritime law in order to help maintain security, and we make no exceptions for any country in this regard,” he added.
Shamkhani was referring to the UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker, which was impounded by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on July 19 when it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia "for failing to respect international maritime rules”.
IRGC’s measure to seize Stena Impero came days after Britain’s naval forces unlawfully seized Iranian-owned oil tanker Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar, 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 Arab country.
On Wednesday, Iran in a letter to the UN Security Council defended the country's seizure of the British oil tanker, describing it as necessary to protect safety of the Strait of Hormuz.
Tehran’s letter to the United Nations Security Council said that "Stena Impero" collided with a small fishing boat on July 19, and badly injured its crew, some of whom remain in critical condition.
Afterwards, instead of responding to distress calls from the boat and radio communications from Iranian authorities, the British tanker turned off its transponder and "dangerously" changed course in the direction of incoming ships, the letter read.
That is when, according to the letter, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) intervened and took the ship and its crew into custody.
Tehran asserted in the letter that the seizure, which took place in accordance with international regulations, was necessary for protecting the safety and the order of maritime navigation at the Strait of Hormuz strategic choke point.
According to the letter, Iranian judicial authorities had ordered local officials to investigate the tanker's violations, including its environmental damage as well as the extent of the damage it has done to the fishing boat and its crew.
The letter also rejected claims by the UK government in a recent letter to the UNSC, where it had claimed the IRGC forces acted illegally by approaching the Stena Impero in "Omani territorial waters".
Iran's permanent mission at the UN said in its letter that everything it did was aimed at upholding international law and ensuring secure navigation in the Persian Gulf.
The IRGC's Navy impounded, British oil tanker, Stena Impero, last Friday when it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia "for failing to respect international maritime rules”.
"UK tanker ship, Stena Impero, has been detained by the vessels unit of the IRGC Navy's First Naval Zone at the request of the Ports and Maritime Organization's office of Hormuzgan province for disregarding international maritime rules and regulations as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz this afternoon," the statement by the IRGCN public relations said.
The statement added that the ship had been escorted to the Iranian coastal waters in Hormuzgan province and its control had been transferred to the Ports and Maritime Organization for further legal procedures and investigations.
A statement by Stena Impero shipping firm had announced there were 23 crew onboard the UK ship, stating that there had been no report on any harm or injury to the crew members since the vessel came under detention by the Iranian forces.
Director-General of the Ports and Maritime Organization's office in Hurmuzgan province stated that he filed a request for the seizure of the British tanker by the IRGCN after reports on its risky moves that made the vessel prone to accident.
Sources said that the British ship had switched off its tracking systems in violation of maritime rules and regulations and was making an entry from the exit point of the Strait of Hormuz in the South, disregarding the established procedures that require all entries be made through the Northern pass.
Director General of the Ports and Maritime Organization's office of Hormuzgan province Allah Morad Afifipour stated Saturday that the British oil tanker was seized because it ignored calls from a fishing boat after an accident in the waterway.
"The British oil tanker, Stena Impero, had an accident with a fishing boat on its way and according to the law, the reason and other issues related to the accident should be studied," Afifipour said.
He added that sailors on the damaged fishing boat had contacted the British vessel, but the tanker had ignored their calls.
"When the British vessel did not respond to the fishing vessel, they informed Ports and Maritime Organization's office of Hormuzgan province according to the legal procedures," Afifipour said, noting that his office had requested the Judiciary and the IRGC to stop the British tanker.
Also, the UK owned tanker, MV Mesdar, operating under Liberian flag was stopped by Iran's naval patrols in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday evening after it started oil leaks in the waterway.
The ship was sent back to the international waters to continue its voyage after a short time and after it was warned to show full respect for environmental regulations and harmless navigation.
Senior military officials also rejected reports by some western media outlets claiming that the Liberian-flagged tanker had been seized, stressing that 'Stena Impero' was the only foreign ship under Iranian custody.
In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized an Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria “in violation” of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus. Washington has applauded the move, hailing it as a sign that Europe is on board with the US’ unilateral sanctions against Iran.
According to Fars News Agancy, the Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the “illegal move” of London and described it as “tantamount to piracy”. Tehran accused the UK of doing Washington’s bidding and helping the US attempt to stifle the Islamic Republic’s oil exports, rejecting London's claim that the supertanker was carrying crude for Syria.
The attorney general announced on Friday that Gibraltar's supreme court has ruled that the Iranian tanker seized by Britain's Royal Marines can be detained for 30 more days. The court's decision came a day after a senior Gibraltar's official described as “constructive” talks with Iran, raising hopes that the tanker would be released imminently.
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has slammed Britain’s illegal seizure of the oil tanker, warning London of a pending response to the seizure of the supertanker that he referred to as a case of "piracy".
Last Thursday, naval forces of the IRGC seized a foreign ship smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf, according to a statement by the public relations office of the IRGC Navy's first zone. The foreign vessel was smuggling a million liters of fuel from Iran and was seized in Iranian waters South of Lark island. Yet, a statement issued by the IRGC on Thursday denied that any other foreign ship had been seized during the last week as claimed by the western media. The statement reiterated that the ship had been seized for "smuggling fuel from Iran", and no other reason.
The recent moves by foreign powers in the Middle East such as US sanctions on Tehran's oil, UK seizure of Iranian supertanker, as well as, "sabotage operations" on oil ships have intensified the turmoil in the region and the turmoil in the international energy market, affecting global crude prices in recent months.