Iran fires at, detains U.S. ship in Gulf

Cargo ships seen between Iranian city port of Bandar Abbas and Qeshm island in the strategic water way of Persian Gulf.

Cargo ships seen between Iranian city port of Bandar Abbas and Qeshm island in the strategic water way of Persian Gulf.


Iran has opened fire at a U.S. cargo ship and directed it to Bandar Abbas port on the southern coast of Iran, Al Arabiya News Channel has reported on Tuesday.

A Pentagon spokesman told Reuters Iranian forces had boarded a Marshall Island-flagged vessel, the MV Maersk Tigris, in the Gulf. He said the boarding occurred after Iranian patrol boats fired shots across the vessel’s bow and ordered it deeper into Iranian waters.

U.S. planes and a destroyer were monitoring the situation after the vessel, the MV Maersk Tigris, made a distress call in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important oil shipping channels.

The ship had no U.S. citizens aboard, the spokesman said, contradicting earlier reports which said there were 34 U.S. sailors on board.

Reuters tracking data showed the Maersk, a 65,000-tonne container ship, off the Iranian coast between the islands of Qeshm and Hormuz. It was listed as sailing from the Saudi port of Jeddah, bound for the United Arab Emirates port of Jebel Ali.

A U.S. government official said the ship was intercepted by the Naval force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) at 0905 GMT.

The Pentagon spokesman said the incident occurred when the Maersk Tigris was passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Some 17 million barrels per day (bpd), or about 30 percent of all seaborne-traded oil, passed through the channel in 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

There was no immediate word from Iranian officials.

Iran has in the past sometimes threatened to block the strait to advance its opposition to sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.

The channel is a narrow strip of water separating Oman and Iran. It connects the biggest Gulf oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

At its narrowest point, the strait is 33 km (21 miles) across and consists of 2-mile wide navigable channels for inbound and outbound shipping and a 2-mile-wide buffer zone.


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