The UK has joined a new US-led international maritime security mission in the Gulf to protect shipping assets passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

According to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), joining the mission is part of the government’s commitment to freedom of navigation and safe passage through the Gulf region.

The move is in response to rising tensions with Iran in the Gulf in recent months.

The UK seized an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar, citing sanction violations. This was followed by the seizure of a British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards near the Strait of Hormuz.

Under the new maritime mission, the Royal Navy and the US Navy will work together to offer protection to merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.

The passage is a key route. Ships carrying 20% of the world’s oil pass through it every year.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The UK is determined to ensure her shipping is protected from unlawful threats and for that reason we have today joined the new maritime security mission in the Gulf.

“Upholding international maritime law and freedom of passage is in all our interests. The deployment of Royal Navy assets is a sign of our commitment to our UK flagged vessels and we look forward to working alongside the US and others to find an international solution to the problems in the Strait of Hormuz.”

The government has also proposed to lead one of the mission’s Maritime Task Groups.

Although the mission currently involves only the US and the UK, the countries are open to working with more allies to strengthen the mission to tackle the issue.

The MoD stated that the mission will help improve coordination between different countries’ militaries and commercial shipping.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Our aim is to build the broadest international support to uphold freedom of navigation in the region, as protected under international law.”

Raab added that joining the mission does not change the government’s position on the Iran nuclear deal and that it is committed to the deal.

The decision to join the US-led mission comes after a proposal was made last month by the UK’s then Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for the formation of a European-led naval mission.

The Royal Navy’s HMS Duncan and HMS Montrose warships are currently in the Gulf to protect shipping assets.