On Wednesday, three Iranian boats intercepted the British Heritage, a UK-flagged oil tanker, as it was trying to make its way through the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian vessels told the oil tanker to change course and stop, a move that prompted a swift response from a British Royal Navy warship.
The HMS Montrose, a Royal Navy frigate, came to the defense of the British Heritage. According to a report by the Daily Mail, the HMS Montrose aimed its guns at the Iranian boats, ordering them to back away from the oil tanker.
A Wildcat helicopter was also deployed from the HMS Montrose and began “buzzing” the Iranian boats by circling overhead at a close distance.
The Iranian vessels quickly backed off, all without the HMS Montrose having to fire a single shot.
“HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage,” said a spokesman for the British government in a statement. The spokesman went on to confirm that the HMS Montrose began to “issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels.”
The Iranian boats ultimately “turned away,” according to the statement.
After the incident, the British government issued guidance to its commercial vessels that operate near or in the Strait of Hormuz, placing them on “heightened security” and warning them to be vigilant of Iranian vessels “being aggressive.”
Britain also urged Iran to take action to “de-escalate the situation in the region.”
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt discussed the encounter, calling the incident “a very concerning development.”
“I am very proud of the Royal Navy and the role they played in keeping British assets, British shipping safe,” said Hunt. “We are continuing to monitor the situation very, very carefully.”
British Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt also discussed the actions of the HMS Montrose, stating, “The crew of HMS Montrose [on Wednesday] ensured the safe passage of the merchant vessel British Heritage through the Strait of Hormuz.”
“I would like to thank the Royal Navy for their professionalism, which upheld international law and supported freedom of navigation through a shipping channel that is vital to global trade,” Mordaunt continued.
“The UK Government is concerned by this action, and we urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation.”
Iran denies that it was attempting to seize the British Heritage, though had previously threatened to take a British oil tanker after the UK stopped the Grace 1, one of Iran’s vessels, off the Gibraltar coast the week prior.