Navy to protect ships from Iran attacks in dramatic escalation in Hormuz

 HMS Montrose is patrolling in the Gulf and is to step up protection of UK shipping

HMS Montrose is already patrolling in the Gulf and is to step up protection of UK shipping, managed from Clydebank. 

By Bill Heaney, the Scottish SUN and Sky News

A submarine from the Clyde Naval Base at Faslane on the Gareloch and a detachment of Royal Marines, also based there, may already be on their way to Iran after Boris Johnson ordered the Royal Navy to accompany all British-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz in a dramatic escalation of the crisis with Iran.

The ramping up of the Navy’s protection mission by the new PM comes in the wake of Iran seizing Brit tanker the Stena Impero, which is part of a tanker fleet managed from a base in Clydebank. The ship has an all-foreign crew.

The navy has HMS Montrose currently deployed in the Strait of Hormuz and it has reportedly already carried out the first escort under the new protection plan.

Another surface ship, HMS Duncan, a nuclear powered submarine and Royal Marine Commandos from HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane could also be sent to bolster the UK presence.

“The Royal Navy has been tasked to accompany British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz, either individually or in groups, should sufficient notice be given of their passage,” said a government spokesman.

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HMS Vanguard, based at Faslane

“Freedom of navigation is crucial for the global trading system and world economy, and we will do all we can to defend it.”

The move came just hours after new Prime Minister Boris Johnson took office.

Mr Johnson is close to Donald Trump, who has deployed a large military presence in the Gulf in response to what the US said were Iranian threats.

The current tension between Iran and the UK began when Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker at the request of the US.

The Grace 1 is currently detained in Gibraltar amid suspicion it was taking oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

Under the new Royal Navy escort mission, UK-flagged ships have been told to give the Department of Transport sufficient notice of their travel plans in the area, Sky News reports.

Ships might be grouped together in convoys or accompanied individually depending upon how many are travelling on a given day, according to sources.

Britain has been seeking to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.

On Friday, the Revolutionary Guard launched a gunboat and helicopter raid on Stena Impero, which is registered in the UK, claiming it had turned off its tracker and ignored warnings.

Iran’s seizure of the tanker was described as an “state piracy” by the government.

Another vessel, the Mesdar, was also intercepted and forced towards Iranian territory in what appeared to be a co-ordinated strike.

State TV footage shows Iranian armed forces on board the Stena Impero after it was seized in the Strait of Hormuz.

The clip is thought to have been filmed in the southern port of Bandar Abbas, where jet boats have been sailing around the British ship.

Iranian special forces stormed the ship by abseiling down from a helicopter.

Startling images have emerged of the ship being circled by a military speedboat.

Britain has demanded Iran release the tanker and in response the Islamic Republic has offered to swap the vessel for the Grace 1.

Iran had warned the UK that the seizure would not go “unanswered” and has also issued a chilling warning that it was using drones to track every ship in the Gulf.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, has insisted his country doesn’t want confrontation.

“It is very important for Boris Johnson as he enters 10 Downing Street to understand that Iran does not seek confrontation, that Iran wants normal relations based on mutual respect,” he said.

Fears have recently been raised that the Royal Navy lacks the strength to conduct missions to protect UK shipping.

Since the Falklands War, the navy has dropped from 80 vessels to 50 but with ten of those currently out of action for maintenance.

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