At least 23 sailors are reportedly being held by Iran after 2 British tankers seized in Strait of Hormuz

Military units of the Islamic Revolution Ground Corps are seen on boats in December 2018.

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Military units of the Islamic Revolution Ground Corps are seen on boats in December 2018.
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Hamed Malekpour/Tasnim news Agency via REUTERS

  • Iran is reportedly holding at least 23 sailors after it seized a UK-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz.
  • A second tanker, owned by a British shipping company, was also seized by Iran on Friday. But it was later released, and reports said the crew was “safe and well.”
  • The Stena Impero’s owner, the Sweden-based Stena, and its UK-based operator, Northern Marine Management, in a statement said they have not been able to contact the crew members.
  • “There are 23 seafarers aboard,” the statement added. “There have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers.”
  • “Their crews comprise a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement, which came before the second tanker was released.
  • These incidents appear to be retaliation for British Royal Marines seizing an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar earlier this month.
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At least 23 sailors are reportedly being held by Iran after the seizure two British tankers in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.

Iranian state media said the British tanker Stena Impero was seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The Stena Impero’s owner, the Sweden-based Stena, and its UK-based operator, Northern Marine Management, in a statement said they have not been able to contact the crew members.

The statement said, “Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management can confirm that at approximately 1600 BST on 19th July UK registered vessel Stena Impero (built 2018, 49,683 DWT) was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters. We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran.”

“There are 23 seafarers aboard,” the statement added. “There have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers. The priority of both vessel owner Stena Bulk and ship manager Northern Marine Management is the safety and welfare of the crew.”

Read more: Iran reportedly seized 2 British tankers on Friday in a major escalation against the US and UK

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed a second tanker was also seized on Friday, and reports indicated it was the UK-owned, Liberian-flagged MV Mesdar. Not much information is available on the second tanker, but Hunt said, “Their crews comprise a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship.”

Not long after, it was reported that the Mesdar was released and that the crew was “safe and well,” according to the ship’s owner, Norbulk Shipping UK.

This came just one day after a US Navy ship took down an Iranian drone in the area, though Iran has rejected the US government’s claims and said no unmanned aircraft were lost in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday.

“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi tweeted on Friday.

Last month, Iran shot down a US Navy drone in the region, which nearly prompted a military strike from President Donald Trump.

And earlier this month, UK forces seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of the British territory of Gibraltar, and Friday’s ship seizures could be retaliation for that.

The IRGC on Thursday also released footage that showed two of its patrol boats circling the United Arab Emirates-owned, Panamanian-flagged Riah tanker. The Riah had been missing since Sunday.