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British-registered oil tanker causes a security scare in the Persian Gulf

A British-registered super tanker which started drifting off the coast of Iran provoked a scare this morning amid fears Tehran had boarded the 1,092-foot vessel. 

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The Pacific Voyager tanker was en-route from Singapore to Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, when it slowed down and stopped around 6am today. 

Iranian sources denied that they had boarded the boat and a British official later confirmed that it was ‘safe and well’.

The Pacific Voyager stopped in the Gulf en route to Saudi Arabia from Singapore, before resuming its course, mapping showed.

It stopped as part of a routine procedure to adjust its arrival time at its next port, an official at UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said. 

An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander on Friday had threatened to seize a British ship in retaliation for the capture by Royal Marines of Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar.

The supertanker, which is owned by Iran, is suspected of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. 

Mohsen Rezaee, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council and commander in the Revolutionary Guards, said it was Iran’s ‘duty’ to retaliate after Royal Marines and Gibraltar police intercepted the Grace 1 tanker on Thursday.

Rezaee, who led the IRGC during the 1984 ‘Tanker War’ when Iraq bombed Iranian tankers in the Gulf, tweeted: ‘The Islamic Revolution was never an initiator of tension during its 40-year-old history, however, it has not hesitated to respond to bullies.

‘If UK doesn’t return the Iranian tanker, the duty of responsible [Iranian] bodies is to seize a British oil tanker in a retaliatory measure.’ 

The Pacific Voyager, whose home port is Douglas on the Isle of Man, passed through the 22-mile wide Straight of Hormuz last night and into Iranian territorial waters. 

Around 6am the tanker appeared to veer off course as it slowed to a stop and began drifting south in the Persian Gulf.  

Iran had dismissed as ‘fabricated’ reports that the ship had been seized by its Revolutionary Guard forces.

On Saturday an Iranian cleric said Britain should be ‘scared’ about Tehran’s possible retaliation for the seizure of the Grace 1, the Fars semi-official news agency reported.

‘I am openly saying that Britain should be scared of Iran’s retaliatory measures over the illegal seizure of the Iranian oil tanker,’ said Mohammad Ali Mousavi Jazayeri, a member of the Assembly of Experts clerical body.

Tensions are high in the Gulf following last month’s attacks on vessels near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping route, and Iran’s downing of a US drone. Washington and Saudi Arabia have directly blamed Iran for the attacks on tankers, something Tehran denies.

The attacks have raised fears of a broader confrontation in the region where the United States has boosted its military presence over perceived Iranian threats

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