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US Navy Stops Iran From Seizing Two Merchant Oil Tankers in Gulf of Oman

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Iran tried to seize two oil tankers in international waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz early on July 5, firing shots at one of them, the U.S. Navy said.

In both cases, officials said, Iranian naval vessels backed off after the U.S. Navy responded to distress signals, and that both commercial ships continued their voyages. 

“The Iranian Navy did make attempts to seize commercial tankers lawfully transiting international waters,” said Commander Tim Hawkins, spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. “The U.S. Navy responded immediately and prevented those seizures.” 

READ MORE about encounters at sea with Iranian ships.

It was the latest in a series of attacks on ships in the area since 2019.

The U.S. Navy said in a statement that the first report came at 1 a.m. when one Iranian naval vessel approached the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker TRF Moss. The Iranian vessel departed the scene when the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived, it said.

About three hours later, the U.S. Navy received a distress call from the Bahamian-flagged oil tanker Richmond Voyager while the ship was about 30 kilometers off the coast of Oman. Another Iranian naval vessel had closed within 2 kilometers of the Richmond Voyager while hailing the tanker to stop.

The McFaul directed course toward Richmond Voyager at maximum speed as the tanker continued its transit, the Fifth Fleet said.

The Iranian vessel departed the scene when U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74) arrived on station. Additionally, the U.S. Navy deployed surveillance assets, including MQ-9 Reaper and P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

“Prior to McFaul’s arrival on scene, Iranian personnel fired multiple, long bursts from both small arms and crew-served weapons,” the statement said. “Richmond Voyager sustained no casualties or significant damage. However, several rounds hit the ship’s hull near crew living spaces. The Iranian Navy vessel departed when McFaul arrived.”

The U.S. oil company Chevron confirmed to Soldier of Fortune that it managed the Richmond Voyager, that its crew was safe, and that the vessel was operating normally.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA said that Iranian authorities have not commented yet on the matter.

The United States in May increased the rotation of ships and aircraft patrolling the Strait of Hormuz with its partners following an uptick in Iranian merchant vessel seizures, the Fifth Fleet said.

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