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U.K.'s May to Lead Emergency Meeting on Persian Gulf Security
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BP Avoids Sending Tankers and Crews Through Strait of Hormuz
(Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.BP Plc, the British oil giant that had to shelter one of its tankers in the Persian Gulf this month in fear it could be targeted by Iranian forces, is avoiding sending ships to the region after tensions flared between Tehran and London.BP is “certainly not sending British ships and crews” through the Strait of Hormuz, the only way for tankers to reach the world’s biggest oil-exporting region, Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley said in a Bloomberg TV interview.Earlier this month, a BP tanker had to abandon a plan to load Iraqi crude and instead took shelter near Saudi Arabia because the company feared the ship could be targeted in a tit-for-tat response for British Royal Marines seizing a vessel transporting Iranian crude in the Mediterranean, a person familiar with the matter said at the time.Warship InterventionA British warship had to intervene to ensure the BP tanker’s safe exit of the Persian Gulf through Hormuz and the U.K. navy subsequently escorted other British-flagged vessels through the chokepoint responsible for a third of seaborne petroleum exports.“I think that’s a good thing, having open maritime trade is really important whether it is oil or any kind of trade,” Dudley said of the escorts.The British oil giant isn’t the only energy shipper taking precautions amid broader safety concerns in the Strait of Hormuz. Gaslog Ltd., which owns a fleet of liquefied natural gas carries, said Tuesday it won’t allow its ships to transit the key waterway without a naval escort, adhering to the current advice from its flag state Bermuda. The company has 26 LNG carriers on the water, according to its website.In early July, British Royal Marines stopped the Grace 1 tanker just off Gibraltar and the vessel remains in the British overseas territory’s waters now. The Gibraltarian government said it had reason to believe the vessel was carrying Iranian oil to Syria, which it said would be a breach of sanctions. Iran labeled the act “piracy” and, after the nation’s naval vessels approached the BP ship, another tanker, the Stena Impero, was eventually seized.History of Tension“It’s concerning but the Straits are open now and oil is moving,” Dudley said. “It’s not the first time in history we’ve had a lot of tension on the Strait of Hormuz.”The impact on BP from rising Hormuz tensions isn’t significant, Dudley said. While insurance premiums for tankers surged in the wake of six attacks on vessels in May and June, rates to charter the ships have stayed largely flat. That means freight -- as a proportion of the overall price of oil -- remains small. Crude prices also kept relatively stable as concerns about global demand offset the Middle East friction.Click here to read: Why the Strait of Hormuz Is World’s Oil FlashpointChief Financial Officer Brian Gilvary also confirmed that BP hadn’t sent any of its British-flagged tankers through the Strait since the July 10 attempt by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to seize its tanker. The company was reporting earnings that beat estimates.BP has a fleet of 38 oil and gas carriers plying international trade routes, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the company itself and Clarkson Plc, the world’s biggest shipbroker.All but two of them start with the word ‘British’ in their name but none are inside the Persian Gulf at this time, according to ship-tracking. The U.K. government has recommended that ships flying the nation’s flag avoid the Persian Gulf for now.BP, as one of the world’s biggest oil companies, also hires hundreds of tankers each year, with many of them loading at ports and jetties inside the Persian Gulf. Dudley didn’t elaborate on what measures, if any, were being taken for those.(Updates with LNG fleet owner comment in sixth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Kelly Gilblom and Stephen Stapczynski.To contact the reporters on this story: Anna Edwards in London at aedwards49@bloomberg.net;Eddie Spence in London at espence11@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at anightingal1@bloomberg.net, ;James Herron at jherron9@bloomberg.net, Rakteem KatakeyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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U.K. Seeks to Calm Tensions With Iran After Tanker Seizure
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. sought to lower tensions after Iran seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday, an incident that increased friction in one of the world’s critical energy chokepoints.The U.K. demanded the immediate release of the Stena Impero and on Saturday summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires, Mohsen Omidzamani, in London. While the government threatened Iran with “serious consequences” and advised U.K. ships to avoid the area, ministers on Sunday sought to dial down the rhetoric.“We need to try and de-escalate this,” Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said in a Sky News interview. “Our first and most important responsibility is to make sure that we get a solution to the issue to do with the current ship, make sure other British-flagged ships are safe to operate in these waters and then look at the wider picture of actually having a working proper professional relationship with Iran.”On Sunday, the Iranian flag was seen flying over the bridge of the British tanker in the Bandar Abbas port, according to images aired by state-run Press TV.Tensions have been flaring in the Strait of Hormuz in recent weeks as Iran lashes out against U.S. sanctions that are crippling its oil exports and after the seizure of one of its tankers near Gibraltar. The Strait accounts for about a third of the world’s seaborne oil flows, and Brent crude rallied as much as 2.4% on Friday’s news.The U.K. plans to take further measures this week, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement without giving details on what action would be taken. The Sunday Telegraph said diplomatic and economic measures, including a freeze on Iranian assets, are being considered and the U.K. may push the European Union and United Nations to reimpose sanctions on Iran. But on Sunday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond sought to downplay that threat.“We’ve already got a wide raft of sanctions against Iran, particularly financial sanctions, so it’s not clear that there are immediate additional things that we can do but we are of course looking at all the options,” Hammond said in a BBC interview. Still, “it was an illegal act and we’re going to pursue every possible diplomatic route to resolve this issue.”Iran doesn’t have any assets that the British government could seize, according to Ali Naghi Seyyed-Khamoushi, head of the Iran-Britain Joint Chamber of Commerce in Tehran. Any sanctions would not affect Iran’s exports and imports to any great extent, he said, according Iran’s Tasnim news agency.With U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May set to leave office on Wednesday, the latest clash with Iran presents a diplomatic headache for her successor. The favorite to be named the new Conservative Party leader is Boris Johnson, and his opponent, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, on Saturday tweeted that that British shipping will be protected in the Persian Gulf.U.S. Central Command has announced a “multinational maritime effort” called Operation Sentinel to “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.”Tensions between Iran and the West have been rising since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 multi-nation agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program. The U.S. reimposed the sanctions that had hobbled the Iranian economy and has been pressuring European allies to respect the sanctions and curtail their trade with Iran.Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday that the ship entered the strait from the wrong direction, wasn’t paying heed to maritime regulations and could potentially have collided with other vessels. State television said the ship will be held until judicial assessments are complete.Stena Bulk, the ship’s owner, said on Sunday that a request to the authorities at the port of Bandar Abbas -- where the vessel is anchored -- to visit the 23 crew members had been acknowledged. The company hasn’t yet received a formal response.The firm said on Saturday it had been told that the crew members are in good health. It has been given no instructions about the fate of the ship.Iran has also suggested its actions are in retaliation for the British seizure of the Grace 1 tanker off Gibraltar. A court in Gibraltar ordered the continued detention of the vessel for another 30 days, after it was held on suspicion of taking oil to Syria. Iran denies that was the destination.In recent weeks the U.K. Navy has escorted some tankers out of the region, while the U.S. said it downed an Iranian drone just days ago. The latest incident cooled hopes that the U.S. and Iran would soothe tensions by entering into negotiations.In Washington, 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.”(Updates with Iranian flag flying over tanker in Iran in fourth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Arsalan Shahla, Tim Ross and Bill Lehane.To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Alex Longley in London at alongley@bloomberg.net;Golnar Motevalli in Tehran at gmotevalli@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Lars Paulsson, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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U.K. Steps Up Pressure on Iran to Release Seized Oil Tanker
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government is stepping up pressure on Iran to release a British oil tanker seized in the Strait of Hormuz, an incident that sent tension soaring in one of the world’s critical energy chokepoints.The U.K. has demanded the immediate release of the Stena Impero and on Saturday summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires, Mohsen Omidzamani, in London. The government threatened Iran with "serious consequences" and advised U.K. ships to avoid the area. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a Tweet Saturday that British shipping will be protected.Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said the U.K.-flagged ship was seized after it crashed into a fishing vessel and had been taken to the port of Bandar Abbas for an investigation. The 23 members of the crew -- none of whom are British -- will remain on board for safety reasons, IRNA reported, citing Allahmorad Afifipour, an Iranian maritime official.Tensions have been flaring in the Strait of Hormuz in recent weeks as Iran lashes out against U.S. sanctions that are crippling its oil exports and the seizure of one of its tankers near Gibraltar. The Strait accounts for about a third of the world’s seaborne oil flows and Brent crude rallied as much as 2.4% on Friday’s news. In recent weeks the U.K. Navy has escorted some tankers out of the region, while the U.S. said it downed an Iranian drone just days ago. The latest incident cooled hopes earlier on Friday that the U.S. and Iran would soothe tensions by entering into negotiations with each other.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.” France and Germany expressed their support for the U.K., with both nations demanding the immediate release of the ship and its crew.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.”Iranian forces had briefly stopped a second tanker and 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 of Iran’s Grace 1 tanker off Gibraltar. Earlier in the day, a court in Gibraltar ordered the continued detention of the vessel, for another 30 days, after it was held on suspicion of taking oil to Syria. Iran denies that was the destination.‘Rule of Retaliation’“The rule of retaliation is something that’s recognized within international law and is used in relation to wrong measures taken by a government,” Guardian Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodaei told IRNA.The second ship, the Liberian-flagged Mesdar, re-established contact with its U.K.-based manager and was moving away from the Iranian coast, according to ship tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. There are no other U.K.-flagged tankers currently in the Arabian Gulf, ship tracking shows.The semi-official Tasnim news agency said the Mesdar “was only briefed on requirements for safe navigation and the observance of environmental regulations and allowed to continue on its course,” citing military officials it didn’t identify.Tensions between Iran and the West have been rising since President Trump pulled out of the 2015 agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program. The U.S. reimposed the sanctions that that had hobbled the Iranian economy and has been pressuring European allies to respect the sanctions and curtail their trade with Iran.It had been hoped that tensions between the U.S. and Iran could possibly be lowered through negotiations. An American official earlier in the day said the administration wants to hear directly from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, about whether the Islamic Republic is interested in negotiations. That followed comments by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that appeared to signal a willingness to talk under specific conditions.That optimism quickly waned. Nicholas Burns, U.S. ambassador to NATO during President George W. Bush’s administration, suggested resurrecting a 1980s policy of having tankers accompanied by military escorts in the Gulf.‘Outlaw Country’“We should form an international coalition of democratic countries to escort every single commercial vessel through the gulf,” Burns said in an interview in Colorado. “The Iranians are an outlaw, they’re acting like an outlaw country, they’re trying to shut down one of the major waterways in the world and then hold us up on it and blackmail us.”The Stena Impero is owned by Stena Bulk and managed by Northern Marine Management, based in Clydebank, Scotland. Both companies are subsidiaries of Swedish-based Stena AB. The Mesdar is owned by a U.K. subsidiary of Algerian oil company Sonatrach Group.Friday’s incidents marked at least the second Iranian move against a U.K. ship in just over a week. On July 11, the British Navy intervened to stop Iran from blocking a commercial oil tanker leaving the Persian Gulf. On Thursday, the U.S. said it shot down an Iranian drone that was endangering the Navy ship USS Boxer, a claim Iran has rejected. In June, Trump said he called off a retaliatory strike on Iran following Tehran’s shooting down of an American drone.“These incidents in isolation are not especially alarming” former U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said at a conference in Aspen, Colorado. But, she added, “in the aggregate they are, given that we’re dealing with players that have little interest in de-escalating.”\--With assistance from David Marino, Stephen Cunningham, Arsalan Shahla, Alyza Sebenius, Josh Wingrove, Kitty Donaldson and Nick Wadhams.To contact the reporters on this story: Golnar Motevalli in Tehran at gmotevalli@bloomberg.net;Tim Ross in London at tross54@bloomberg.net;Alex Longley in London at alongley@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net, ;Andrew Davis at abdavis@bloomberg.net, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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U.K.'s May to Lead Emergency Meeting on Persian Gulf Security
(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May will lead a meeting of the U.K. government’s emergency committee on Monday to discuss the security of shipping in the Persian Gulf after Iran seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last week.May and the committee of top officials and ministers, dubbed Cobra, is to meet at 10:30 a.m. in London, her office said. The U.K. has demanded the immediate release of the Stena Impero and over the weekend summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires in London, Mohsen Omidzamani, following the incident in one of the world’s critical energy chokepoints. While the government threatened Iran with “serious consequences” and advised U.K. ships to avoid the area, ministers on Sunday sought to dial down the rhetoric.“We need to try and de-escalate this,” Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said in a Sky News interview. “Our first and most important responsibility is to make sure that we get a solution to the issue to do with the current ship, make sure other British-flagged ships are safe to operate in these waters and then look at the wider picture of actually having a working proper professional relationship with Iran.”On Sunday, the Iranian flag was seen flying over the bridge of the British tanker in the Bandar Abbas port, according to images aired by state-run Press TV.Tensions have been flaring in the Strait of Hormuz in recent weeks as Iran lashes out against U.S. sanctions that are crippling its oil exports and after the seizure of one of its tankers near Gibraltar. The Strait accounts for about a third of the world’s seaborne oil flows, and Brent crude rallied as much as 2.4% on Friday’s news.The U.K. plans to take further measures this week, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement, without giving details.The Sunday Telegraph said diplomatic and economic measures, including a freeze on Iranian assets, are being considered and the U.K. may push the European Union and United Nations to reimpose sanctions on Iran. But on Sunday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond sought to downplay that threat.“We’ve already got a wide raft of sanctions against Iran, particularly financial sanctions, so it’s not clear that there are immediate additional things that we can do but we are of course looking at all the options,” Hammond said in a BBC interview. Still, “it was an illegal act and we’re going to pursue every possible diplomatic route to resolve this issue.”Iran doesn’t have any assets that the British government could seize, according to Ali Naghi Seyyed-Khamoushi, head of the Iran-Britain Joint Chamber of Commerce in Tehran. Any sanctions wouldn’t affect Iran’s exports and imports to any great extent, he said, according Iran’s Tasnim news agency.With May set to leave office on Wednesday, the latest clash with Iran presents a diplomatic headache for her successor. The favorite to be named the new Conservative Party leader is Boris Johnson, and his opponent, Hunt, on Saturday tweeted that that British shipping will be protected in the Persian Gulf.U.S. Central Command has announced a “multinational maritime effort” called Operation Sentinel to “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.”Relations between Iran and the West have worsened since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 multi-nation agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program. The U.S. reimposed the sanctions that had hobbled the Iranian economy and has been pressuring European allies to respect the sanctions and curtail their trade with Iran.Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday that the British ship entered the strait from the wrong direction, wasn’t paying heed to maritime regulations and could potentially have collided with other vessels. State television said the ship will be held until judicial assessments are complete.Stena Bulk, the ship’s owner, said on Sunday that a request to the authorities at Bandar Abbas -- where the vessel is anchored -- to visit the 23 crew members had been acknowledged. The company hasn’t yet received a formal response.The firm said on Saturday it had been told that the crew members are in good health. It has been given no instructions about the fate of the ship.Iran has also suggested its actions are in retaliation for Britain’s seizure of the Grace 1 tanker off Gibraltar. A court in Gibraltar ordered the continued detention of the vessel for another 30 days, after it was held on suspicion of taking oil to Syria. Iran denies that was the destination.In recent weeks the U.K. Navy has escorted some tankers out of the region, while the U.S. said it downed an Iranian drone just days ago. The latest incident cooled hopes that the U.S. and Iran would soothe tensions by entering into negotiations.In Washington, 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.”\--With assistance from Arsalan Shahla and Tim Ross.To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Alex Longley in London at alongley@bloomberg.net;Golnar Motevalli in Tehran at gmotevalli@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Steve GeimannFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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