UK sends third warship to the Gulf amid Iran tension
The HMS Defender joins the 'HMS Kent' and 'HMS Montrose' to defend freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz
A third British warship is on its way to the Arabian Gulf to defend freedom of navigation after a British-flagged tanker was seized in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender was redirected from a mission to the Pacific and will join the Type 23 frigates the HMS Kent and HMS Montrose.
“Wherever the red ensign flies around the world, the UK stands by to protect freedom of navigation whenever it is tested,” said Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Saturday.
The HMS Defender and the HMS Kent sailed from Portsmouth on August 12.
The HMS Kent was sent to take over from the frigate HMS Duncan, a Type 45 destroyer that arrived in the strait last month to “provide reassurance to the shipping industry” against Iranian aggression, the British government said.
The Royal Navy said last month that it sent HMS Duncan to temporarily join HMS Montrose in the Gulf “to ensure we maintain a continuous maritime security presence while HMS Montrose comes off task for pre-planned maintenance and crew changeover”.
According to the UK Foreign Office, the HMS Montrose has accompanied 35 merchant vessels through the Strait during 20 separate transits, travelling 6,200 nautical miles in the process.
The warship warned off three Iranian gunboats on July 11 that UK officials said were trying to impede the progress of a British supertanker through the Strait.
Tension between Tehran and London worsened since the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Stena Impero, a Swedish-owned tanker sailing under the British flag. Revolutionary Guard personnel stormed and detained the vessel and its crew of 23 as they sailed through the Strait of Hormuz on July 20.
Iran said the move was in response to British forces capturing Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 – since renamed Adrian Darya-1 by Iran – near Gibraltar on July 4. The Grace 1 was said to be carrying crude oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
Iran denied that the Grace 1 was bound for Syria and assured a court in Gibraltar that the tanker would not proceed to the war-torn nation.
The United States sought to keep the tanker impounded in Gibraltar, but authorities in the semi-autonomous British territory released it last week after rejecting an attempt by US officials to keep it detained.
The vessel’s new destination was to be Kalamata, Greece. But on Saturday, the listed destination changed to Mersin, Turkey, after Greece said it would not risk its relationship with the US by aiding the tanker.
There has been no comment from the US, Iran or Turkey on the tanker’s new destination.
The US alleges that the Grace 1’s true owner is the IRGC, which Washington this year designated as a foreign terrorist organisation.
Australia said last week that it would join the US-led mission to protect shipping amid heightened tension with Iran.
Updated: August 26, 2019 07:53 AM