‘We must protect our ships’ says Mersey Maritime CEO as Iranians seize British vessel

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claims to have  seized a British oil tanker, Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for the seizure of an Iranian vessel destined for Syria. Tony McDonough reports

Chris Shirling-Rooke
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime

 

Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke has repeated his call for the Ministry of Defence to urgently beef up the UK’s naval capability following reports the Iranians had seized a British oil tanker.

Tensions have been raised in the past couple of weeks after the seizure of an Iranian vessel destined for Syria. Iran threatened retaliation prompting the MoD to order HMS Duncan and HMS Montrose  into the Gulf to protect British vessels.

However, on Friday the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claimed to have carried out their threat saying that had seized a British oil tanker, Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz after it strayed into Iranian waters.

Earlier this week Mr Shirling-Rooke, who represents Liverpool city region’s £4bn powerhouse maritime sector, said the MoD needed to invest more in the Royal Navy so it can offer proper protection to British commercial shipping. He said Friday’s turn of events had vindicated his warning.

He told LBN on Friday evening: “Reports that a British-flagged oil tanker have been seized by Iranian forces today, reinforce very clearly my view that our country must urgently invest more in our Royal Navy.

“This ship was peacefully travelling in international shipping lanes which makes this action by the Iranians even more concerning. Defending our security and commercial interests abroad against unacceptable behaviour such as this is an issue that isn’t going to go away any time soon.

“We must, unequivocally and robustly, be able to protect British merchant ships going about their lawful business. The simple truth is that there aren’t enough vessels in the area able to escort our ships. To rectify that won’t be possible without serious investment.”

Mersey Maritime member, shipyard and engineering firm Cammell Laird has teamed up with BAE Systems to bid for the contract to build the next generation of Type 31e frigates. The five vessels will cost £1.25bn each.

And, earlier this week, Mr Shirling-Rooke said: “Our defence and commercial needs don’t come cheap. As a proud maritime nation, it is time to put our money where our mouth is as a country and ensure our investment in the Royal Navy is protected and increased in the years ahead.”

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