With a fifth of the world's oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the shipping industry regards the narrow channel as one of the most important trading lanes in the world. Following Iran’s detention of a British oil tanker last Thursday, a top maritime intelligence firm head has claimed that shipping companies will be reluctant to use British-flagged vessels to transport their wares. Philip Diacon, who heads up Dryad Global, claimed that his global clients have already started talks with China as they seek to avoid being caught up in regional tensions.
He said: "This obviously did, to an extent, catch the UK by surprise.
"The shipping industry was not really prepared for this.
"Normally it's the British-flagged, US-flagged and Saudi-interest vessels that are the most likely to be targeted.
"We are starting to see talk of moving to Chinese-flagged vessels.”
With Beijing and Tehran sharing warm relations in recent years, companies can be fairly secure in the knowledge that Tehran will let Chinese ships operate in the Strait.
It will come as a huge diplomatic blow to Westminster, amid widespread wariness over ceding more geopolitical ground to Beijing.