Amid growing regional tension, destroyer HMS Duncan will accompany commercial vessels
A second UK warship has arrived in the Gulf to protect British commercial ships amid heightened tensions in the region, the Ministry of Defence has said.
The type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan will work alongside the frigate HMS Montrose to accompany British vessels through the strait of Hormuz.
HMS Montrose covers an operating area of about 19,000 nautical miles and has so far accompanied 35 merchant vessels through the strait, according to the MoD.
The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said that freedom of navigation in the strait of Hormuz was “vital not just to the UK, but also our international partners and allies.
“While we continue to push for a diplomatic resolution that will make this possible again without military accompaniment, the Royal Navy will continue to provide a safeguard for UK vessels until this is the reality.”
Commander Tom Trent, the commanding officer of HMS Duncan, said: “We have relocated from an intense deployment in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, which included support to the French carrier strike group with live operations in Syria.”
Last week, the government confirmed that the Royal Navy had been tasked with accompanying British-flagged ships through the strait to provide reassurance to the shipping industry.
It followed two sets of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and an attempt by the Iranian navy to push a British oil ship towards Iranian waters.
Britain’s relations with Iran worsened when the UK seized an Iranian ship, Grace 1, near Gibraltar earlier this month. The ship was suspected of breaching EU sanctions by carrying oil destined for Syria. Tehran denied the ship was heading for Syria and threatened to seize a British oil tanker in retaliation if it was not released.
A British-flagged oil tanker, Stena Impero, was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in the shipping route last week. A second British-linked tanker was also boarded by armed guards before being released.
On Wednesday, the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani indicated that the captured Stena Impero could be released if the UK returns Grace 1 to Iran.
On Sunday, he wrote to Boris Johnson saying that he hoped diplomatic ties between the two countries would be stronger under the leadership of the new prime minister.
In the letter, published on his website, he congratulated Johnson, and said he hoped his “only one visit to Tehran” when foreign secretary in 2017 and now his tenure as PM would lead to a “further deepening of bilateral and multilateral relations”.