The U.S. Navy has stopped accompanying commercial ships through the Strait of Hormuz, a mission it began last week in the wake of Iran’s seizure of a cargo ship, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said the decision was taken after several days of accompanying U.S. and British commercial ships without incident. He stressed that U.S. Navy ships in the area would still conduct routine maritime security operations.
The Navy has been accompanying U.S.-flagged ships traversing the strait for several days in response to last week’s detention of the MV Maersk Tigris by Iranian Revolutionary Guard patrol boats. Pentagon officials say the action is a temporary one as a result of recent Iranian actions in the waterway.
The Maersk Tigris was approached by Iranian patrol vessels last Tuesday and ordered into Iranian waters. The ship’s master initially declined and an Iranian vessel fired shots across its bow and forced it to divert to near Larak Island off the port of Bandar Abbas.
The Maersk Tigris remains there as a result of what Iranian officials have said is a court order based on a commercial dispute.
The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region as a result of the conflict in Yemen between Iranian-backed rebels and the Saudi-backed government. The United States is supporting the Saudi-led coalition.
U.S. officials said the Navy began accompanying U.S.-flagged vessels in the strait in part because Iranian patrol boats had shadowed a U.S.-flagged commercial ship going through the vital waterway a few days before the Maersk Tigris was detained.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Doina Chiacu)