US Navy prevents Iranian forces from seizing two merchant ships in Gulf of Oman
US military forces have successfully prevented two attempted commercial tanker seizures by Iranian naval vessels after the Iranians had opened fire in one of two incidents near the coast of Oman earlier this week, the US Naval Forces Central Command has confirmed.
Both of the incidents occurred in international waters on Wednesday, July 5.
At 01:00 local time on Wednesday, one Iranian naval vessel approached the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker TRF Moss in international waters in the Gulf of Oman. The Iranian vessel departed the scene when US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived on station.
Additionally, the US Navy deployed surveillance assets, including MQ-9 Reaper and P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
Approximately three hours later, the US Navy received a distress call from Bahamian-flagged oil tanker Richmond Voyager while the ship was more than 20 miles (32 kilometres) off the coast of Muscat, Oman, and transiting international waters toward the Arabian Sea. Another Iranian naval vessel had closed within one mile of the tanker while hailing the latter to stop.
McFaul directed course toward Richmond Voyager at maximum speed as the merchant tanker continued its transit.
Prior to McFaul’s arrival on scene, Iranian personnel fired multiple long bursts from both small arms and crew-served weapons.
Richmond Voyager sustained no casualties or significant damage. However, several rounds hit the ship’s hull near the crew living spaces.
The Iranian navy vessel departed when McFaul arrived.
In May of this year, the United States increased the rotation of ships and aircraft patrolling the Strait of Hormuz with partners following an uptick in Iranian merchant vessel seizures. The US Navy said the increased force presence supports multinational efforts under the International Maritime Security Construct and bilaterally with partner nations to deter threats to commercial shipping and reassure regional mariners.
Since 2021, Iran has harassed, attacked, or seized nearly 20 internationally-flagged merchant vessels, presenting what the US Navy calls “a clear threat to regional maritime security and the global economy.”