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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
The capture of the UK crew
Britain and Iran have released conflicting accounts of the location where 15 sailors and Marines were detained by Iranian forces on 23 March.

Map showing locations of ships according to the UK government

  • The Ministry of Defence says the merchant ship boarded by a crew from HMS Cornwall on 23 March was 1.7 nautical miles (3.1km) inside Iraqi territorial waters. It says the master of the vessel has confirmed this.
  • HMS Cornwall was south-east of the merchant ship, inside Iraqi waters.
  • On 24 March the Iranian government told the UK - according to the UK's Ministry of Defence - that the merchant vessel was at a different location, but still within Iraqi waters.
  • When the UK pointed out to the Iranians that the location they had given was within Iraqi waters, the Iranians provided a "corrected" location, nearly 1 nautical mile away (1.9km) from its first position but within Iranian waters.
  • The UK government disputes both Iranian claims. It says the "corrected" location is more than 2 nautical miles (3.7km) from its own version, as recorded by HMS Cornwall's GPS data equipment.
  • One of the small boats used by the boarding party from HMS Cornwall had a GPS chart plotter, continually communicating its position to HMS Cornwall, where the position was displayed on an electronic chart.
  • The UK says the two boats were together at all times.
  • HMS Cornwall's Lynx helicopter had been monitoring the initial stages of the boarding of the Indian-flagged merchant ship, at 0739 local time on 23 March.

    Communications with the boarding team were lost at the time the boarding ended - at 0910.

  • The helicopter crew returned to the scene and reported that the two boats were being escorted by Iranian Islamic Republican Guard Navy vessels towards the Shatt al Arab waterway, inside Iranian territorial waters.

Map broadcast during IribNews report
Map taken from IribNews broadcast. Specific location in relation to coastlines is unclear from the broadcast.

Translation of news item broadcast on Iran's IribNews channel, 29 March 2007:

[Presenter] An Iranian navy official has said: "According to the information recorded on the British sailors' GPS, their entrance and stay in Iranian waters is definite."

Colonel Setareh, commander of Arvand Coastguard Base:
"In the name of God. On Friday 23 March 2007, two British boats intruded Iranian water borders. Ultimately, these sailors were arrested on this spot [shows the spot on a map].

"After reading the information on their navigation equipment - the GPS seized from them - it was revealed that they had already intruded water borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran on these spots marked on the map [indicates position].

"They were ultimately stopped and arrested on this spot. [indicates position. Video then shows Iranian boats approaching British boats. Voices of coastguards can be heard as saying: "Yes, they are British".]

"Bearing in mind that British naval boats had previously violated Iranian waters in 2004 and had given commitment in the same year not to repeat this again, they have been handed over to relevant officials for further investigation and the issue is being studied."

Source: Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Tehran, in Persian 1503 gmt 29 Mar 07, translated by BBC Monitoring.

Graphic explaining how GPS works

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