A British Royal Navy vessel has received an assignment to accompany all vessels under the country's flag sailing through the Strait of Hormuz, the Defence Ministry stated. The announcement comes a day after new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Cabinet was appointed. Military veteran and member of Parliament Ben Wallace has been given the post of Defence Secretary under the new government.
"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", the government spokesperson said.
The spokesman further stressed the importance of the freedom of navigation in global trade and noted that the UK will be doing everything in its power to defend it. Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier said that the warship, HMS Montrose, stationed in the Gulf had already escorted a number of British vessels sailing in the region.
The British government also announced plans to form a European force tasked with ensuring the freedom of navigation with France, Italy and Denmark reportedly supporting the idea.
The statement comes after Iran detained British tanker Stena Impero on 19 July over violations of maritime laws, after it ignored warnings, switched off its positioning device, and collided with an Iranian fishing boat. Although Tehran earlier warned that it may detain a British vessel over a conflict with London regarding the tanker Grace 1, Iranian officials noted that Stena Impero's arrest was not a "retaliation".
British authorities detained the tanker Grace 1, carrying Iranian oil, in Gibraltar suspecting it of sailing for Syria and thus violating EU sanctions against the country. Tehran denies that the oil was destined for Syria and accused the UK of endangering trade and the freedom of navigation with the illegal arrest of the tanker.