UK-flagged tanker reported ‘safe and well’ after stop in Gulf

Updated July 07, 2019

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A handout picture released by Britain’s defence ministry shows British marines taking part in the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker in the early hours of Thursday off the Strait of Gibraltar.—AFP/File
A handout picture released by Britain’s defence ministry shows British marines taking part in the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker in the early hours of Thursday off the Strait of Gibraltar.—AFP/File

DUBAI: The UK-flagged supertanker Pacific Voyager that halted in the Gulf on Saturday is “safe and well,” a British official said, after Iran dismissed reports its Revolutionary Guards had seized the vessel.

A Revolutionary Guards commander on Friday had threatened to seize a British ship in retaliation for the capture by Royal Marines of Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar.

The Pacific Voyager stopped in the Gulf en route to Saudi Arabia from Singapore, before resuming its course, Refinitiv Eikon mapping showed.

It stopped as part of a routine procedure to adjust its arrival time at its next port, an official at UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said. UKMTO, which coordinates shipping in the Gulf, had been in contact with the tanker, the official said.

On Saturday an Iranian cleric said Britain should be “scared” about Tehran’s possible retaliation for the seizure of the Grace 1, the Fars semi-official news agency reported.

“I am openly saying that Britain should be scared of Iran’s retaliatory measures over the illegal seizure of the Iranian oil tanker,” said Mohammad Ali Mousavi Jazayeri, a member of the Assembly of Experts clerical body.

US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May discussed ways to maintain pressure on Iran during a phone call on Friday, the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

The statement, which did not mention the tanker incident, said: “They discussed cooperation ... to advance shared national security interests, including efforts to enforce sanctions on Syria, to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon, and to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea.” Washington’s envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is headed to hold talks with European officials in Brussels and Berlin this week, the State Department said on Saturday, after Trump’s recent meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarised Zone at Panmunjom where they agreed to resume stalled nuclear talks.

Tensions are high in the Gulf following last month’s attacks on vessels near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping route, and Iran’s downing of a US drone. Washington and Saudi Arabia have directly blamed Iran for the attacks on tankers, something Tehran denies.

The attacks have raised fears of a broader confrontation in the region where the United States has boosted its military presence over perceived Iranian threats.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2019