The UK is sending Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan to the Persian Gulf in the wake of an escalation of tensions in the region following the scrapping of the Iran nuclear deal and a spate of attacks on commercial tankers.
HMS Duncan was operating in the Black Sea when the ship’s new tasking was announced.
The destroyer and crew stopped in Souda Bay, Greece, over the weekend before they proceed to the Gulf, where they will join another Royal Navy ship protecting merchant shipping, frigate HMS Montrose.
Last week, HMS Montrose protected the tanker British Heritage that had been harassed by Iranian Revolutionary Guards vessels. The boats retreated after HMS Montrose positioned itself between the tanker and Iranian vessels and issued verbal warnings.
HMS Montrose and HMS Duncan’s deployments will overlap for a period of time, before Duncan takes over from Montrose, which has pre-planned maintenance.
“As part of our long standing presence in the Gulf, HMS Duncan is deploying to the region to ensure we maintain a continuous maritime security presence while HMS Montrose comes off task for pre-planned maintenance and crew change over,” a government spokesperson said.
“This will ensure that the UK alongside international partners can continue to support freedom of navigation for vessels transiting through this vital shipping lane.”
The UK has also signaled it was ready to release an Iranian tanker it had previously seized on suspicion of breaking Syria sanctions. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt noted that the release of Grace 1 would take place if Iran could provide guarantees that the oil tanker would not offload in Syria.
Hunt is meeting EU officials on Monday where the leaders will discuss ways to reduce tensions with Iran.
“Their [ Iranian] approach to Mid East has been profoundly destabilising but we want to reduce not raise tensions over Grace 1 and avoid a nuclearised region,” Hunt said on Monday.