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US, UK naval ships chase away Iranian boats from ‘harassing’ merchant vessel in Strait of Hormuz

Naval ships belonging to the U.S. and the U.K. came to the aid of a merchant ship sailing through the vital Strait of Hormuz after it was “harassed” by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the U.S. Navy said Monday. 

The announcement came after three Iranian “fast-attack” vessels armed with troops approached the merchant ship Sunday afternoon.

The U.S. Navy’s guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul and the U.K. Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster responded to scene with HMS Lancaster deploying a helicopter as well. 

boat shown in US spy plane photo

This still image taken from surveillance video from a U.S. Navy Boeing P-8 Poseidon shows three Iranian Revolutionary Guard fast-attack vessels near a commercial ship in the Strait of Hormuz Sunday, June 4, 2023. The U.S. Navy said Monday, June 5, its sailors and the United Kingdom Royal Navy came to the aid of a ship in the crucial Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard “harassed” it. Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident.  (U.S. Navy via AP)

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“The situation deescalated approximately an hour later when the merchant vessel confirmed the fast-attack craft departed the scene,” the Navy said. “The merchant ship continued transiting the Strait of Hormuz without further incident.”

The Strait of Hormuz, located in the Persian Gulf, is a major international trade route and sees a whopping 20% of all global oil supplies pass through it — a fact Iran has been looking to take advantage of over the last several years as relations with the U.S. have deteriorated. 

The U.S. Navy did not confirm which type of merchant vessel was harassed in the incident over the weekend, though The Associated Press found by analyzing MarineTraffic.com that a bulk-carrier dubbed “Venture” erratically changed course as it traversed the strait at the time of the encounter.

US Navy sailor on deck with rifle

Master-At-Arms 1st Class Julius Earl stands watch with an M240B machine gun on the fo’c’scle of the guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region, during a Strait of Hormuz transit, in this photo released by U.S. Navy on May 8, 2023.  (U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet/Handout via REUTERS)

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It’s location also matched information obtained through the U.K. Maritime Trade Operations.

The shipped sailed under Marshal Islands flags and its owner Trust Bulkers of Athens, Greece has not commented on the weekend’s events.

The contents onboard the ship also remain unclear.

Iranian missle launch, Iran flag at left

A missile is launched during an annual drill in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman and near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran, in this picture obtained on December 31, 2022. (Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS )

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Revolutionary Guard Rear Adm. Abbas Gholamshahi told the state run IRNA news agency that his guardsmen responded after receiving a distress call from the merchant vessel. 

Thought the U.S. Navy said the distress call was made after the Iranian boats armed with troops were seen nearing the merchant ship. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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