The US Navy said Monday its sailors and the United Kingdom Royal Navy came to the aid of a ship in the crucial Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard “harassed” it.
Three fast-attack Guard vessels with armed troops aboard approached the merchant ship at a close distance Sunday afternoon, the US Navy said in a statement. It offered black-and-white images it said came from a US Navy Boeing P-8 Poseidon overhead, which showed three small ships close to the commercial ship.
The US Navy’s guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul and the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Lancaster responded to the incident, with the Lancaster launching a helicopter.
“The situation deescalated approximately an hour later when the merchant vessel confirmed the fast-attack craft departed the scene,” the Navy said. “The merchant ship continued transiting the Strait of Hormuz without further incident.”
The Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Arabian Gulf, sees 20% of the world’s oil pass through it.
While the Navy did not identify the vessel involved, ship-tracking data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by The Associated Press showed the Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier Venture erratically changed course as it traveled through the strait at the time of the incident. Its location also matched information about the incident given by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a British military operation overseeing traffic in the region. The vessel also resembled the images released by the Navy.
The ship’s registered manager, Trust Bulkers of Athens, Greece, did not respond to a request for comment.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency later quoted Guard Rear Adm. Abbas Gholamshahi claiming that his vessels simply responded to the distress signal from the ship. However, the signal came because armed men were seen aboard the small vessels identified by the Navy as belonging to the Guard.
This latest incident comes after a series of maritime incidents involving Iran following the US unilaterally withdrawing from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.