US Navy says Iran seized commercial vessel in Gulf possibly engaged in smuggling
“Ultimately, US Naval Forces Central Command assessed the circumstances of this event did not warrant further response,” said the US 5th Fleet spokesperson.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a commercial vessel that was potentially smuggling unidentified items in international waters near the Gulf, the US Navy said on Thursday.
“On July 6, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forcibly seized a commercial vessel possibly engaged in smuggling activity and transiting the Arabian Gulf in international waters,” said Commander Tim Hawkins, the US 5th Fleet spokesperson.
The US Navy deployed assets to monitor the situation, Hawkins said in a statement.
“Ultimately, US Naval Forces Central Command assessed the circumstances of this event did not warrant further response,” Hawkins said. He added that US forces remained vigilant and ready to protect navigational rights of lawful maritime traffic in the Middle East’s critical waters.
It was unclear if this vessel was one of the two that the US had prevented Iran from seizing a day prior.
Iran announced earlier in the day that it had a court order to seize a tanker in Gulf waters after it collided with an Iranian vessel, one of two tankers the US Navy said it prevented Iran from commandeering.
The Richmond Voyager, a Bahamas-flagged oil tanker, had collided with an Iranian vessel and the Iranian navy had a court order to seize it, the Maritime Search and Rescue Center of Iran’s Hormozgan Province told the official IRINN news agency.
The US Navy said it sent guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul to respond to a distress call from the Richmond Voyager off the coast of Oman in international waters. It said Iranian authorities had asked the tanker to stop and had fired shots but the Iranian navy vessel departed when McFaul arrived.
Iran said the Richmond Voyager’s collision with an Iranian ship carrying seven crew members had injured five people and caused flooding on board, and that the tanker had not stopped after the incident. The Iranian ship’s owner then requested the tanker be seized, IRINN said.
US oil company Chevron, which manages the Richmond Voyager, said its crew were safe and the vessel was operating normally.
The US Navy had earlier responded to an incident involving the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker TRF Moss in the same region.
Iran seized two oil tankers in a week just over a month ago, the US Navy said.
Since 2019, there has been a series of attacks on shipping in strategic Gulf waters at times of tension between the United States and Iran.
About a fifth of the world’s supply of seaborne crude oil and oil products passes through the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint between Iran and Oman, according to data from analytics firm Vortexa.
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