Updates: Iran Fires at, Boards and Seizes Marshall Islands Cargo Ship – U.S. Navy Destroyer ‘Responding’
UPDATE May 1:
U.S. Navy ships will begin accompanying U.S. commercial ships during their transit through the Strait of Hormuz to ensure they encounter no interference from Iran, according to the Stars and Stripes.
The new policy is in response to the seizure earlier this week of the Maersk Tigris.
Iran claims the seizure if the cargo ship is because the Maersk shipping line owes Iran money awarded in a lawsuit.
The circumstances of Iran’s seizure earlier this week of the MV Maersk Tigris remain unclear. A spokesman for the Danish shipper, Michael Storgaard, said the company learned Thursday that an Iranian appeals court had ruled the company must pay $3.6 million for a 10-container cargo delivered a decade ago on behalf of an Iranian company in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. However, the cargo never was collected, according to Storgaard, adding it eventually was disposed of by local authorities.
Storgaard said Copenhagen-based Maersk Line will “do everything we can to resolve this matter” with Iranian authorities.
Some additional news and viewpoints on the seizure of the Maersk Tigris
“…Why Iran’s Seizure of a Cargo Ship Is So Odd, and Disturbing..While Revolutionary Guard boats often harass passing vessels, the capture of the MV Maersk Tigris appears to be something new.” At Defense News
How “aggressive moves by Iran in crowded international waters are giving skeptics of a nuclear deal with Tehran more ammunition just as negotiations enter the final stretch.” At The Hill
Why the U.S. security responsibility over the Marshall Islands and the fact the small country has no standing military makes the Islands rely on the U.S. to retrieve its cargo ship. At Bloomberg View.
Although lost in the Baltimore riots flood of news, some may have heard or read about Iranian troops firing shots at and boarding the Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel Maersk Tigris early this morning in the Strait of Hormuz, “prompting the U.S. to send assets to the ship’s defense.”
The Pentagon said at least five Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy patrol vessels approached the Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris cargo ship at 4 a.m. eastern time as the ship was transiting the Strait of Hormuz and directed the ship to proceed further into Iranian waters.
Here is the whole story straight from
the horse’s DOD’s mouth:
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain answered a distress call this morning issued by the Maersk Tigris container ship, after an Iranian Navy ship fired shots across its bridge and Iranian personnel boarded the commercial vessel, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
Army Col. Steve Warren told members of the Pentagon press corps that at about 2:05 a.m. Eastern Time, several Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, or IRGCN, patrol vessels approached the M/V Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel.
The commercial ship was in Iranian territorial waters transiting inbound, or north, in the Strait of Hormuz, between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the Arabian Sea. It is one of the world’s major strategic choke points, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Shots Across the Bridge
“The ship’s master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters. He declined and one of the IRGCN craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris,” Warren said.
After this, the master complied with the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters near Larak Island, Warren said. Larak Island is off the coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Warren said the Maersk is still at sea. Initial reports are that members of the Iranian IRGCN have boarded her and there are no further updates, he added.
Navcent, having picked up the distress signal, directed the USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, to proceed to the nearest location of the Maersk Tigris, Warren said.
Navcent also directed a Navy maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe the interaction between the Maersk vessel and the IRGCN craft, he added.
The Tigris’s destination, according to a marine-traffic website, was Jebel Ali, a port town 22 miles southwest of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Under a Marshall Islands Flag
Maersk is a Danish company, but the Maersk Tigris was sailing under a Marshall Islands flag.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a sovereign nation for which the United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense under the terms of an amended compact that entered into force in 2004.
The United States and the Marshall Islands have full diplomatic relations, according to the U.S. State Department.
Navcent is the U.S. Navy element of U.S. Central Command. Its area of responsibility includes the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Navcent consists of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and other subordinate task forces.
“Navcent is communicating with representatives of the shipping company,” Warren said. “We continue to monitor the situation.”
The Pentagon spokesman said the Strait of Hormuz is in Iranian territorial waters, which is within 12 miles of the Iranian coast.
But, he said, because the narrow strait is recognized as containing international shipping lanes, the principle of “innocent passage” is applied, so ships that abide by international rules of the sea are authorized to pass through the strait.
Warren said that there are no Americans among the 30 or so people aboard the Maersk Tigris.
Lead photo: An MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter flies by the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut during a replenishment-at-sea evolution in the Arabian Sea on Dec 4, 2012. U.S. Navy photo