The UK Government is looking to form a European-led naval force to enhance protection to shipping assets passing through the Strait of Hormuz following tensions with Iran.

The proposal to create the maritime protection mission was made by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a statement to the House of Commons.

It comes in the wake of rising tensions in the Gulf after Iran impounded a British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz on 19 July.

Stena Impero is now reportedly held at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

Hunt called the seizure of the tanker by Iran ‘an act of state piracy’ and ‘a flagrant breach of the principle of free navigation’.

He said: “She was passing through the Strait of Hormuz in the Westbound Traffic Lane, inside Omani territorial waters, in full compliance with international law and the rules of navigation.

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“So let us be absolutely clear: under international law Iran had no right to obstruct the ship’s passage, let alone board her. It was therefore an act of state piracy which the House will have no hesitation in condemning.”

He reiterated the UK Government’s demand to release the Stena Impero and its crew.

The Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose has been busy ensuring the safe passage of British tankers through the region.

Media reports stated that the frigate thwarted efforts made by Iranian Revolutionary Guards vessels to block tanker British Heritage earlier this month.

However, Hunt stated that Montrose could not reach the scene in time to prevent the seizure of Stena Impero.

To further beef up security for tankers in the region, the Navy has deployed Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan which is expected to arrive by 29 July.

It is estimated that around one-third of the world’s oil carried by tankers passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Hunt took a cautious stance that steered clear of any support to the ‘US maximum pressure policy on Iran’ as it could be detrimental to the UK’s push for preserving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Reports also emerged that the US may have shot down a second Iranian drone in the troubled Strait of Hormuz last week.