The UK Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan has arrived in the Gulf to enhance protection for British-flagged ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

HMS Duncan will work with Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose to escort British-flagged ships to ensure safe passage through the Strait.

The deployment of the second warship comes in the backdrop of escalating tensions after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz.

The seizure of Stena Impero occurred after British forces seized Iranian tanker Grace 1 near Gibraltar on suspicion of carrying crude to Syria in violation of sanctions.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is vital not just to the UK, but also our international partners and allies.

“Merchant ships must be free to travel lawfully and trade safely, anywhere in the world. I’m pleased that HMS Duncan will continue HMS Montrose’s fine work in helping to secure this essential route.

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“While we continue to push for a diplomatic resolution that will make this possible again without military accompaniment, the Royal Navy will continue to provide a safeguard for UK vessels until this is the reality.”

HMS Montrose will provide support until late August this year and remain stationed in the Middle East until 2022.

The Type 45 warship will hand over the responsibilities to Type 23 frigate HMS Kent later this year.

HMS Duncan commanding officer commander Tom Trent said: “HMS Duncan has arrived in the Strait of Hormuz to continue the outstanding work to protect British maritime interests conducted by HMS Montrose and the UK Maritime Component Commander’s staff in Bahrain.”

Iran claimed that Stena Impero violated international maritime rules at the time of its seizure.

Responding to the incident, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called Iran’s action a case of ‘state piracy’.

Hunt also proposed the creation of a European-led naval force to step up protection of shipping assets in the region.