US: Navy, UK navy respond to merchant vessel distress call in Strait of Hormuz

Monday, June 5, 2023

A screenshot of surveillance footage from the P-8A Poseidon of the incident.
Image: NAVCENT Public Affairs.

The US Navy reported yesterday three fast-attack craft from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN), armed sailors aboard, closely followed an "internationally flagged" merchant ship in the Strait of Hormuz the same day. The US said its guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster intervened after a distress call from the merchant ship, a Lancaster-based helicopter and US P-8A Poseidon maritime patroller accompanying to reconnoiter.

According to the US Navy, tensions calmed about an hour later and the merchant vessel proceeded undisturbed.

IRGCN commander Abbas Gholamshahi denied "extra-regional vessels [were] in the area." He stated a commercial ship flying the Marshall Islands flag reported on an international channel three civilian fast boats a few miles away and the IRGCN detailed vessels to "resolve the captain's concerns."

Yesterday's incident follows others at sea involving Iran since the US' 2018 unilateral exit from the Iran nuclear deal. The Associated Press, citing geolocation, has alleged the US confiscated the Suez Rajan for transporting Iranian crude oil near Singapore, and Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Advantage Sweet in April.