U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain answered a distress call yesterday morning issued by the Maersk Tigris container ship, after an Iranian Navy ship fired shots across its bridge and Iranian personnel boarded the commercial vessel, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Army Col. Steve Warren told members of the Pentagon press corps that at about 2:05 a.m. Eastern Time, several Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, or IRGCN, patrol vessels approached the M/V Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel.
The commercial ship was in Iranian territorial waters transiting inbound, or north, in the Strait of Hormuz, between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the Arabian Sea. It is one of the world’s major strategic choke points, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Shots Across the Bridge
The ship’s master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters. He declined and one of the IRGCN craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris.
After this, the master complied with the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters near Larak Island. Larak Island is off the coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Warren added the Maersk is still at sea. Initial reports are that members of the Iranian IRGCN have boarded her and there are no further updates.
Navcent, having picked up the distress signal, directed the USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, to proceed to the nearest location of the Maersk Tigris.
Navcent also directed a Navy maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe the interaction between the Maersk vessel and the IRGCN craft.
The Tigris’s destination, according to a marine-traffic website, was Jebel Ali, a port town 22 miles southwest of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Maersk is a Danish company, but the Maersk Tigris was sailing under a Marshall Islands flag.
Navcent is communicating with representatives of the shipping company. We continue to monitor the situation.
Image: US Navy