Shipping companies sailing through the Middle East Gulf are being urged to avoid having private armed security guards onboard as the risk of escalation in the region rises, industry associations say.
Relations between Iran and the West have become increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar last week and London said its warship HMS Montrose had to fend off Iranian vessels seeking to block a British-owned tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
The most recent incidents followed a spate of attacks on tankers since May around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, which the United States has blamed on Iran and are denied by Tehran.
An advisory issued in recent days by leading shipping associations warned against using private armed guards in the critical areas.
“The use of force against threats recently encountered in the Gulf of Oman carries significant risk and has the potential to escalate security situations to the detriment of the safety of ship and crew,” the advisory said.
“The use of unarmed maritime advisors to assist with onboard security and watch-keeping is sensible,” it said, noting relevant legal guidelines.