The UK-flagged BW Elm, carrying liquefied petroleum gas, sailed through the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, shadowed by a British warship (likely the on-duty HMS Montrose) until it safely reached its destination port of Mesaieed in Qatar on Wednesday.
The passage was made “despite UK government guidance to avoid the route,” according to a post on the Crown Dependency Political News Facebook page.
It was the first such journey of a British-flagged vessel since the Stena Impero, a UK-flagged oil tanker was seized on July 19, last Friday, by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as it transited through the international waters. The British vessel was forced into Iranian territorial waters before the HMS Montrose – speeding to the scene from five nautical miles away – was able to get there to prevent the capture.
According to the report, “Lloyd’s List understands BW Elm was not provided with a direct escort but was “closely shadowed” by a British naval vessel.”
“BW LPG follows developments in the Strait of Hormuz closely and have asked all of our vessels to proceed with additional vigilance and to follow all appropriate security protocols in place,” a spokesperson said. “BW is liaising closely with all relevant authorities such as flag, class, and insurers and we are operating at our highest security protocol.”
It’s likely the HMS Montrose provided an informal, albeit indirect escort that made it clear to Iran no second attack would be tolerated, as former UK Foreign Minister Boris John prepared Wednesday to assume his duties as the new prime minister, succeeding Theresa May.
The UK this week also announced plans to create a European-led “maritime protection mission” to escort and safeguard vessels in the region, similar to that proposed by the United States.
Britain’s Department for Transport in London has taken the unprecedented step of extending the security level for British-flagged shipping from Level 3 in Iranian waters to cover the entire Strait of Hormuz, an international body of water.
Level 3 signifies exceptional risk with a probable or imminent security incident.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he is “advising against all passage in Iranian waters, and, for the moment, in the entire Strait of Hormuz” for British-flagged vessels. In addition, Hunt has told the Parliament that such vessels are being asked to “give the government notice of any intention to pass through the Strait of Hormuz to enable us to offer the best protection we can.”
The Nautilus International global shipping trade union has called for all British-flagged vessels to avoid the Strait of Hormuz. The UK Chamber of Shipping, which represents the owners and operators of the vessels, has also advised its members to avoid the strait for an “interim and indeterminate period.”
In addition, the union said it was seeking a meeting of the UK Warlike Operations Area Committee (WOAC) to lobby for the area to be declared “high risk” to shipping and seafarers.
So far, the HMS Montrose has previously thwarted one attack on the UK-flagged suezmax tanker British Heritage.