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Cobra emergency meeting as Iran seizes British tanker

Iranian authorities have reportedly seized the British oil tanker Stena Impero (Stena Bulk/PA)
Iranian authorities have reportedly seized the British oil tanker Stena Impero (Stena Bulk/PA)

By Nina Massey

The Government is "urgently" investigating reports a British oil tanker has been seized by Iranian authorities.

The Stena Impero, which is registered in the UK, was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Strait of Hormuz for "violating international maritime rules", the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

According to the Marine Traffic website, the 183m long ship left the United Arab Emirates yesterday and was bound for the port of Al Jubail in Saudi Arabia.

A statement from Stena Bulk, which owns the tanker, said ship manager Northern Marine Management had lost contact with the crew of 23 after "unidentified small crafts and a helicopter" approached the vessel in the Persian Gulf at around 4pm yesterday.

The company said the tanker was in international waters at the time but now appeared to be heading north towards Iran.

Stena Bulk said: "There are 23 seafarers aboard. 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.

"We are in close contact with UK Government authorities."

A spokeswoman for the UK's Ministry of Defence said: "We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf."

Last night a meeting of the Government's emergency committee Cobra was under way.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson tweeted: "These reports are a matter of real concern.

"We know that some days ago there was an attempt to steer a British tanker towards Iranian waters.

"Our ships have the right of safe passage and the Stena Impero must be allowed to continue its voyage unimpeded."

The West Bromwich East MP added: "Any move to seize a British tanker would be a significant and harmful escalation of a situation where de-escalation is needed."

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