The Iranian Navy fired shots during two separate incidents near the coast of Oman on Wednesday, but US forces effectively foiled their attempts to seize commercial tankers.
Around 1 a.m. local time, an Iranian navy vessel approached the TRF Moss, a tanker flying the Marshall Islands flag, shortly after it had passed through the Strait of Hormuz.
The intention of the Iranians seemed to be to board and seize the tanker, according to a US Navy official. However, when the Navy deployed the USS McFaul destroyer to the area, along with MQ-9 Reaper and P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, the Iranian vessel altered its course and departed.
After three hours, a different Iranian navy vessel approached the Richmond Voyager tanker, which had traveled from the United Arab Emirates through the Strait of Hormuz. Allegedly, the Iranian ship attempted to compel the tanker to halt, prompting the tanker to issue a distress call.
According to the US Navy official, the rounds landed near the crew living area, causing minor damage, but there were no reported injuries. Upon the arrival of the USS McFaul, the Iranian ship departed.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the entire [US Naval Forces Central Command] team, especially the exceptional effort by the McFaul crew, for immediately responding and preventing another seizure,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces.
“We remain vigilant and ready to protect navigational rights in these critical waters,” he added.
This is not an isolated incident as Iran has previously interfered with the navigational rights of 20 other internationally flagged merchant vessels over the last two years, including US Navy ships.
The most recent incident took place in May of this year when Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) seized the Panama-flagged oil tanker named Niovi while it was transiting through the Strait of Hormuz.