After a former IRGC commander exhorted his government to take a British oil tanker hostage following the seizure by Royal Marines last week of a vessel hauling Iranian crude, an oil tanker run by British Petroleum is sheltering in the Persian Gulf over fears it could soon be seized by Iran in a tit-for-tat response, Bloomberg reports.
The tanker, which is named ‘British Heritage’, is able to haul about 1 million barrels of crude. It had been sailing toward Iraq’s Basrah oil terminal when it made an abrupt U-turn over the weekend.
The ship is now hanging out near Saudi Arabia’s coast because BP is reportedly worried that the vessel could be targeted if Iran seeks to retaliate for the seizure of the tanker Grace 1 on Thursday.
The Grace 1 was seized after being caught transporting Iranian crude, in breach of sanctions.
British Heritage, registered in the Isle of Man and flying under the British flag, had been chartered by Royal Dutch Shell Plc to transport crude from Basrah to northwest Europe. However, it never collected its cargo and the booking was canceled.
Of course, the ship won’t be able to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, the chokepoint through which about 1/3 of global oil shipped by sea moves, without sailing close to Iran’s coast. It’s unclear how long the ship will be sheltering for.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister said on Sunday he considered the seizure of Grace 1 to be an ‘act of piracy,’ while a former leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said the Islamic Republic should take a British tanker in response.
While it’s owners apparently believe the British Heritage to be ‘safe’ in Saudi custody, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was conveniently and mysteriously ‘bombed’ like the handful of other tankers over the past few months – an incident that the UK and KSA would have no problem pinning on the Iranians.