Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a British oil tanker and a Liberian-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz amid soaring tensions in one of the world’s critical energy chokepoints. U.K. officials demanded the immediate release of the vessels, one of which later left Iranian waters.
Brent futures climbed as much as 1.4% on the news.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and other top British officials held an emergency meeting on Friday evening over the capture of the two vessels. Afterward, the Foreign Office said in a statement that “our response will be considered and robust and there will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved.”
The office added that “we have advised U.K. shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.”
In Washington, President Donald Trump said he will be “working with the U.K.” and suggested the latest developments justify his harsher approach toward Tehran. “This only goes to show what I’m saying about Iran: trouble, nothing but trouble.”
On Friday night, U.S. Central Command announced it was putting in place “a multinational maritime effort” called Operation Sentinel that would “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.”
A spokesman for Iran’s Guardian Council suggested earlier Friday that the move against at least one of the ships was in retaliation for the British seizure, off Gibraltar, of a tanker carrying Iranian crude earlier this month. U.K. authorities said that ship was heading toward Syria in violation of sanctions. Iran’s government rejected that charge, but wouldn’t say where the tanker was going.
Earlier Friday, a court in Gibraltar ordered the continued detention of the vessel, the Grace 1, for another 30 days, according to news reports.