An oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz
An oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

  • Iran has seized UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz, according to Iranian media and the ship's operator.
  • 23 crew members are aboard the Stena Impero; the company has been unable to make contact with them since the vessel was seized.
  • A second ship, the British-owned oil tanker Mesdar, was bound for Saudi Arabia Friday when it sharply veered course north towards Iran. A US official told CNN that the Mesdar also had been seized by Iran.
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Iran's PressTV reports that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized control of the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday afternoon, amid reports that a second ship, the British-owned tanker Mesdar, had also been taken by force and steered toward Iran in what would be a major escalation in Iran's confrontation with the US and UK.

The Stena Impero's owner, the Sweden-based Stena, and its operator, Northern Marine Management, released a statement about the incident.

"Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management can confirm that at approximately 1600 BST on 19th July UK registered vessel Stena Impero (built 2018, 49,683 DWT) was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters," the release states. "We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran." The company states that there are 23 crew members aboard the Stena Impero, and none of the sailors are British citizens, according to the UK's Daily Mirror.

The tanker entered the Strait of Hormuz bound for Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia on Friday. The tanker drove straight out of the channel towards Iran's Qeshm island, according to Marinetraffic.com.

The two British tankers are not the only foreign vessels seized by Iran in the past week; on Thursday, it released footage of an IRGC boat crew circling the UAE-owned, Panama-flagged Riah tanker, which has been missing since Sunday. British Royal Marines seized an Iranian vessel, the UK said was smuggling fuel to Syria. Iran denies that the vessel was carrying fuel to Syria and has repeatedly demanded its release.

A second ship, the British-owned oil tanker Mesdar, was bound for Saudi Arabia Friday when it sharply veered course north towards Iran, according to the ship tracking website. Neither Iran nor the ship's owners, Norfolk Shipping UK based in the UK, confirmed Friday whether it too had been seized, but CNN reported US officials saying that Iran had seized the tanker.

The US-Iran standoff has targeted tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, where over $1 billion of crude oil is shipped through daily. Oil prices have remained largely stable over the past month and are currently around $55 for a barrel, but began rising as news spread of Iran's seizure.

Commenting on broader tensions in the region, US President Donald Trump said Friday that US ships are "the most deadly ships ever conceived and we hope for [Iran's] sake they don't do anything foolish. If they do they're going to pay a price like nobody's ever paid a price."

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