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Tankers: Security

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL17495, tabled on 24 July 2019

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure the safe passage of British tankers overseas.

Answered on

9 August 2019

The shipping industry is understandably concerned about recent regional tensions and attacks on international shipping in the Persian Gulf. These events culminated in Iran's illegal seizure of the Stena Impero, a UK-flagged tanker, on 19 July.

It is vital to uphold the principle of freedom of navigation and ensure that merchant shipping can pass through the Gulf safely. That begins with clear information flows between Government and the shipping industry. The Department for Transport (DfT) regularly reviews threats and reporting worldwide and issues the most up to date advice available to operators to assist with their risk assessments, to enable their safety while travelling overseas.

In late July, following the illegal seizure of the Stena Impero, the Royal Navy began to accompany British-flagged ships in the region to provide reassurance to the shipping industry. In parallel, we have been talking to allies and partners about the threat to international shipping in the region. On 5 August, the Government announced its decision to join an international maritime security construct in the Gulf, focused on freedom of navigation and restoring safe passage for shipping. The mission involves the Royal Navy working with international partners to accompany merchant vessels through the Strait of Hormuz, building on existing cooperation which has seen Royal Navy vessels accompany 50 merchant ships through the Strait since 24 July.

Our participation in this construct is focused entirely on the issue of reassuring the shipping industry and deterring further attacks. The Government has not changed its wider policy towards Iran. We remain committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which is the best way to prevent a nuclear armed Iran. We are not part of the US maximum pressure campaign and have no wish to escalate tensions with Iran, but we also have to ensure that international law and rules are upheld and respected.