British Tanker Accosted by Iranian Boats – British Frigate Intervenes

By Faye Higbee

Three Iranian boats attempted to stop a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, but broke off the action after the HMS Montrose maneuvered among them. The British frigate had guns at the ready, and issued warnings over their loudspeaker. The “British Heritage” oil tanker was empty at the time, and belongs to British Petroleum (BP).

In their usual way, Iran denied that anyone had contacted the British tanker at all. “There have been no encounters with foreign vessels, including the British ones.” But the boats were said to belong to the IRGC.

Right. Although CENTCOM did not confirm it, the possibility exists that a US plane was overhead at the time and recorded the encounter. The US presence has been significantly increased in the region.

A week ago, as we previously reported, the British Royal Navy seized an Iranian tanker that was delivering oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

Other U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Wednesday’s incident occurred as British Heritage was approaching the northern entrance of the Strait of Hormuz.

“The Royal Navy HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed it guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed,” said a U.S. official quoted by The Associated Press.

“It was harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage,” another official said, according to AP.

Screenshot via BBC

The BBC reported:

The Royal Navy has a frigate, four minehunters and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship already stationed in a permanent Naval Support Facility in the region, at Mina Salman in Bahrain.

The Strait is exceedingly narrow. According to Frank Gardner, a security consultant,

The Strait of Hormuz, through which all ships must pass to enter the Gulf, is so narrow – just 21 nautical miles (39km) at its narrowest – that Iranian and Omani territorial waters meet in the middle.

So instead of sailing through international waters, ships must pass through Iranian or Omani territory which both extend 12 nautical miles out from their coasts.

Ships do this under something called Rights of Straits Passage – part of a UN convention which gives ships free passage through the world’s chokepoints like the Strait of Gibraltar and the Malacca Strait.


All the more reason why the US is attempting to pull together a multi-national naval force to assist in providing security to oil ships travelling through the Strait, according to General Mark Milley.

Featured photo: Royal Navy – HMS Montrose