Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz was a ‘legal measure’. “Seizing the British tanker was a legal measure by Iran. Iran confronted the ship (to ensure) the region’s security,” Iran government spokesman told a news conference in Tehran. Iran impounded the Stena Impero tanker on Friday on allegations it failed to respond to distress calls and turned off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.
It has faced mounting calls to release the vessel and its crew -- 18 Indians, three Russians, a Latvian and a Filipino.
“To all the countries that are calling on Iran to release the tanker, we ask them to tell Britain the same thing,” Rabiei said, referring to the seizure by the British authorities of an Iranian tanker in the Mediterranean on July 4.
“Comparing the two seizures is an unfair reading” of the situation, said the Iranian government spokesman.
“When you illegally seize the ship in Gibraltar, we too are not bound to tolerate any more,” he said, while adding the seizure that Tehran carried out was not done in retaliation.
Erik Hanell, President and Chief Executive, Stena Bulk, said: "There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality. There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus.
"We are in close contact with both the UK and Swedish government authorities to resolve this situation and we are liaising closely with our seafarers' families," Hanell said.
In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized an Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.
Gibraltar claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria "in violation" of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus, escalating tensions in the Gulf.
Earlier, President Donald Trump had said a United States naval ship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Horumz after coming within its “threatening range”, a development that is likely to escalate the simmering tensions between the two countries. The incident took place at approximately 10 am local time when the amphibious ship, USS Boxer, was in the international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the strait, Pentagon chief spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said on Thursday.
Trump said the Boxer took defensive action against the Iranian drone, which had “closed into a very, very near distance”, approximately 1,000 yards. He said it ignored multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the crew.
“The drone was immediately destroyed. This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” the president told reporters at the White House.