Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized control of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel in the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, prompting the US Navy to dispatch a destroyer to “monitor” the situation, officials said.
Iranian military ships fired across the bow of the Maersk Tigris when the captain initially refused a demand to head towards Iranian territory, US government and cargo company officials said.
Iran said it had ordered the ship to be impounded at the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas because of a commercial dispute.
An Iranian court had ordered the ship’s confiscation over alleged unpaid debts, Hadi Haghshenas of the Iran Ports and Maritime Organisation was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.
The container ship had last made a stop at the Red Sea port of Jeddah, on the Saudi Arabian coast, and was sailing through the strait into Gulf waters bound for the United Arab Emirates, according to the website maritimetraffic.com.
It was unclear if the last port of call was related to the Iranian decision to take control of the container ship. Iran and Saudi Arabia are waging a proxy war in Yemen, where Saudi-led aircraft are bombing Shiite Houthi rebels backed by Tehran.
After hearing a distress call from the cargo vessel, the US military deployed a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Farragut, and a P-3 surveillance aircraft, to the area, Pentagon officials said.
But US officials said there were no imminent plans for the warship to seek to secure the release of the cargo vessel, which had no Americans on board.
The ship seizure came against the backdrop of heightened tensions in the Gulf fueled by the conflict in Yemen and high-stakes diplomacy between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program.
Read more: http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-reportedly-seizes-us-cargo-ship-holds-crew/