US, UK navies respond to merchant ship distress call following harassment by Iranian vessels

A screenshot of surveillance footage from a US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft showing three Iranian fast attack craft approaching an internationally flagged merchant vessel transiting the Strait of Hormuz, June 4, 2023. (Photo: US Navy/Naval Forces Central Command)

United States and United Kingdom Royal Navy forces responded to a distress call from a merchant vessel transiting the Strait of Hormuz as Iranian fast attack boats harassed the commercial ship on Sunday, June 4.

The internationally flagged merchant vessel made a radio distress call at 16:56 local time on Sunday while transiting the narrow strait.

The civilian crew reported three fast attack craft with armed personnel approached and followed their vessel at close distance. The harassing craft were assessed to be from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster both received the distress call, and Lancaster launched a helicopter to provide surveillance. The US Fifth Fleet also directed a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to monitor the scene.

The situation de-escalated approximately an hour later when the merchant vessel confirmed the fast attack craft departed the scene.

The merchant ship continued transiting the Strait of Hormuz without further incident.

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