At about 0800 UTC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) fired warning shots and took control of the Maersk Tigris, a Marshall-Island-flagged cargo ship bound for Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates. After taking control of the 255-meter vessel and its 30+ personnel, the Iranians diverted its course out of the Strait of Hormuz and farther into Iranian waters. Contrary to early reports, there are no Americans believed to be aboard the ship.
Reports indicate the ship captain initially avoided the commands of the Iranian intercept vessels to steer farther into Iranian waters, as the Maersk Tigris was operating within the recognized international shipping lanes. The IRGCN vessels then fired warning shots near the bridge, prompting the captain to comply. The captain was able to transmit a distress call during the incident.
At last GPS contact (~1500EST), the ship appears to be anchored about 15 km south of the Iranian port at Bandar Abbas.
The U.S. has ordered the destroyer USS Farragut to the strait, and there are reports of U.S. helicopters (possibly from the Farragut) being launched to monitor the situation.
According to the Iranian news outlet Press TV, “The cargo ship was seized due to legal issues with an Iranian Foreign Ministry.”
The real reason for the seizure is unclear. Given the timing of the incident, it is possible Iran is trying to assert control of the strait, which is one of the most significant shipping lanes in the world, in response to the U.S. sending warships to block Iranian support to Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.
(Featured image courtesy of fromthetrenchesworldreport.com)