British-flagged vessels traveling through the Strait of Hormuz will now be escorted by Royal Navy warships to protect them from Iranian attacks as tensions in the region continue to increase, a new report says.
The new plan comes after Iran's Revolutionary Guard seized the British oil tanker Stena Impero last week in what the country said was retaliation for the United Kingdom's role in impounding an Iranian tanker allegedly headed to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.
Sky News reported the Department of Transport is asking the shipping industry to give the government advance notice of its travel plans in the Straight of Hormuz, through which one-fifth of the world's crude oil passes. Ships will be escorted through the narrow waterway either individually or grouped together depending on how many are traversing the strait each day, according to industry sources.
"Freedom of navigation is crucial for the global trading system and world economy, and we will do all we can to defend it," a government spokesman told Sky News.
In this Sunday, July 21, 2019 photo, an aerial view shows a speedboat of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard moving around the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday by the Guard, in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Global stock markets were subdued Monday while the price of oil climbed as tensions in the Persian Gulf escalated after Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker on Friday. (Morteza Akhoondi/Tasnim News Agency via AP) (AP)
"The Department for Transport has therefore updated its advice to confirm that 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 escorts would allow British ships to begin traveling the waterway again after the government temporarily banned its vessels from making the voyage after the Stena Imperio was seized.
That action was just the latest in a series of recent aggressive behavior from Iran, including the downing of a U.S. drone that American officials say was over international waters and allegedly planting mines on two oil tankers last month. Iran has said the U.S. drone was actually in its airspace and denies involvement in the mine attacks.
The United States later claimed that the U.S.S. Boxer downed an Iranian drone that was acting aggressively in the strait. Later reports indicated the amphibious assault ship may have actually destroyed two drones in the incident.
Two Whitehall sources say leaders from Great Britain, the U.S., and other countries will meet at an Amerian military base in Florida to discuss further escorts and surveillance in waters around the Middle East, according to Sky News. On Friday, U.S. Central Command announced Operation Sentinel as, "a multinational maritime effort … to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle east to ensure freedom of navigation in light of recent events in the Arabian Gulf region."
Fox News' Tyler Olson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.