The United States Navy has said that it prevented Iranian forces from seizing two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, the latest in a series of such incidents in one of the world’s most vital energy passageways.
US Naval Forces Central Command said Wednesday that a guided missile destroyer, the USS McFaul had driven off Iranian vessels attempting to intercept two oil tankers off the coast of Oman, including one incident in which Iranian forces reportedly fired on one of the tankers.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
“On July 5, US forces prevented two attempted commercial tanker seizures by the Iranian Navy after the Iranians had opened fire in one of the incidents near the coast of Oman,” a news release from the US Navy read. “Both of these incidents occurred in international waters.”
The encounters came at a time of high tensions between the US and Iran, which have struggled to revive a nuclear agreement that the Trump administration unilaterally broke off in 2015. The US has long accused Iran of harassing and seizing commercial vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran has stepped up those activities in recent months, seizing two oil tankers in one week during the months of April and May.
In these latest attempts, the first incident took place at about 1am local time on Wednesday, (21:00 GMT on Tuesday) when Iranian forces approached the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker TRF Moss. The Iranian vessel left when the USS McFaul, arrived on the scene.
About three hours later, the US Navy said that it had received a distress call from a Bahamian-flagged oil tanker, the Richmond Voyager, which had been told by an Iranian naval vessel to stop.
As the US ship made its way to the scene, Iranian forces fired on the Voyager with “long bursts from both small arms and crew-served weapons”, but that no serious damage or loss of life occurred the statement from the US Navy said. The Iranian forces left when the USS McFaul arrived.
The US Navy said that it has increased its presence in the Strait of Hormuz since May, citing an uptick in Iranian efforts to seize commercial vessels. The US says that Iran has “attacked or seized” nearly 20 such vessels since 2021.
“We remain vigilant and ready to protect navigational rights in these critical waters,” US Vice Admiral Brad Cooper said in the release.
Iran, which the US placed under heavy sanctions after the Trump administration unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal, has not commented on the incident.