The U.S. Navy declared on Monday that its sailors and the U.K.’s Royal Navy came to the rescue of a vessel in the Strait of Hormuz after the Revolutionary Guard of Iran “harassed” the ship.
Empowered with armed troops aboard, three fast-attack Guard vessels approached the merchant vessel at a close distance on Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Navy mentioned in a statement. It offered black and white photographs received via a US-based Navy Boeing P-8 Poseidon overhead showing three small vessels near the commercial ship.
USS McFaul, the U.S. Navy’s guided-missile destroyer, and HMS Lancaster, the Royal Navy’s frigate, responded to the incident, with the Lancaster promptly launching a helicopter.
The Navy informed that the situation de-escalated approximately within an hour when the merchant vessel reportedly confirmed the fast-attack craft set sail from the scene. The merchant vessel continued sailing in the Strait of Hormuz without any further incident.
The Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, experiences 20% of the world’s oil pass through it.
While the Navy could not identify the vessel involved, ship-tracking data analyzed by The Associated Press (A.P.) suggested that the Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier named the Venture changed its course erratically as it travelled via the strait during the incident.
Its location matched information on the incident provided by the U.K.’s Maritime Trade Operations, a British military operation that oversees traffic in that region. The vessel resembled photographs published by the Navy.
The Revolutionary Guard and Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge the incident. Iran’s mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This latest incident comes after a series of maritime incidents that involved Iran following the U.S. unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear deal of Tehran with world powers in 2018.
The suspected seizure of the Suez Rajan by America, a tanker related to a U.S. private equity firm believed to have been loaded with sanctioned Iran’s crude oil off Singapore, possibly compelled Tehran to take the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker dubbed the Advantage Sweet. That vessel was loaded with Kuwait’s crude oil for an energy firm named Chevron Corp. of San Ramon in California.
While relevant authorities haven’t acknowledged the seizure of Suez Rajan, the vessel is now off the coast of Galveston in Texas, per ship-tracking data that the A.P. has analyzed.
In the meantime, Iran seized the Niovi separately as it departed from a dry dock in Dubai for Fujairah, which lies on the eastern coast of UAE. Niovi is a Panama-flagged tanker. While not loaded with cargo, the A.P.’s S&P Global Market Intelligence data showed that the Niovi received oil from a ship Oman Pride in July 2020.
In August 2021, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned the Oman Pride as well as others that were related to the vessel over it being entangled in an international oil smuggling group that untiringly supported the Quds Force, an expeditionary unit of the Guard, which runs operations across the Mideast.
Purported emails released online by Wikiran, a website that reportedly solicits leaked documents from the Islamic Republic, suggest that cargo transported by the Niovi was sold without permission to companies in China.
The most recent seizures have placed new pressure on the U.S., which has long served as the security guarantor for nations in Gulf Arab. The UAE claimed last week that it earlier withdrew participation from Combined Maritime Forces, a joint naval command, even though the U.S. Navy mentioned that it was still in the group.
In the meantime, the U.S. military’s Central Command stated on Saturday its chief paid a visit to the region, met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Emirati leader, and spoke about shared regional security concerns and the UAE and the U.S. security partnerships.
The Middle-East-based commanders of the French, British, and U.S. navies last month transited the Strait of Hormuz on Friday aboard an American warship, a sign of a unified approach to keep the waterway open even after Iran seized the oil tankers.
References: Aljazeera, Republic World, Military.com
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