Reports circulated on Monday that the United States Navy and the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy protected a ship in the crucial Strait of Hormuz shortly after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seemed to harass the vessel.

San Diego, Calif. (March 9, 2004) – Sailors man the rails aboard USS Peleliu (LHA 5) as the ship transits San Diego Bay upon return from deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Mark A. Mead via Wikimedia Commons

The US Navy said that three fast-attack Guard boats with uniformed crew members made a close approach to a commercial ship on Sunday afternoon. It provided black and white images from a US Navy Boeing P-8 Poseidon passing nearby, proving the encounter. It showed three smaller vessels close to the commercial ship.

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy Denies Presence of Foreign Ships Responding to Distress Call

In a Tasnim News article, IRGC Navy’s 1st Naval Zone in charge Abbas Qolamshahi said numerous media outlets had attempted to propagate false information in an effort to sow terror and defend the illegal and inadmissible presence of the extra-regional nations in the Persian Gulf.

Qolamshahi said the ship carrying the flag of the Marshall Islands made an emergency call at 4:15 p.m. local time on June 4. Their Navy made the call as it approached the Strait of Hormuz.

The ship immediately dialed Iran’s command and control center in the Hormuz Strait. He said the ship’s expressed its concern about the placement of non-military light boats next to it.

The chief recalled that the commerce ship’s skipper had expressed concern about being harassed after spotting three non-military light boats a few miles away.

The commerce vessel was in the neighboring state’s waters; therefore, the IRGC commander claimed that his men examined the situation there after consulting with and speaking to the neighboring state. The captain’s concerns were allayed, and after receiving assurances, he thanked the Iranian forces and continued on his journey.

There were no ships from outside the area in the area where the trading ship had requested assistance, according to Admiral Qolamshahi. He asserted that information in the media regarding the presence of foreign navy forces was wholly untrue.

US, UK Navies Respond to Distress Call

Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in New York on October 19, 2018, in New York City. Photo by Christopher Furlon.

US Navy’s guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul and the frigate HMS Lancaster of the Royal Navy launched helicopters. These were sent in response to the distress call.  ABC News reported that the commercial ship kept sailing through the Strait of Hormuz without incident.

The Strait of Hormuz, which narrows the Persian Gulf’s mouth, is where 20 percent of the world’s crude flows. Several reports, citing, noted that the bulk carrier Venture sailing under the Marshall Islands flag made unusual course changes as it passed through the strait.

The Navy, however, did not disclose the name of the concerned ship. The incident information given by United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a British military operation in charge of monitoring local traffic, matched the area of the occurrence. The ship reached the images that the Navy had made public.

The ship’s registered management, Trust Bulkers of Athens, Greece, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The Revolutionary Guard or the official Iranian media did not immediately acknowledge the incident. Officials have yet to respond to requests for comment from the Iranian delegation to the UN.

Since the US unilaterally left Tehran’s nuclear agreement with other world powers in 2018, several maritime incidents have involved Iran.

Al Jazeera mentioned that the ship Suez Rajan, connected to a US private equity business and was transporting sanctioned Iranian crude oil near the coast of Singapore, is thought to have been seized by the US.

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Authorities did not officially confirm the incident. But ship tracking data examined by sources indicate that it is now off the coast of Galveston, Texas.


US Relationship With Other Countries

A US Navy Martin UAV drone hovers mid-air beneath a US Navy SH-60S Seahawk helicopter on October 26, 2021. – The US and Bahrain navies conducted a joint exercise at sea, launching a series of drills integrating unmanned systems into regional maritime operations. Photo by Mazen Mahdi.

Another Al Jazeera story reported that the UAE withdrew from a US-led maritime alliance after assessing its security needs.

After Tehran intensified attacks on commercial vessels in May, the US eyed strengthening its “defensive posture” in the Gulf. Iran captured two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz in late April and early May. It included the Niovi, traveling from Dubai to Fujairah.

Iranian officials said one tanker collided with an Iranian vessel and fled. The other was hauled into Iranian territorial seas by judicial order after a legal complaint. The same Al Jazeera report, citing the Wall Street Journal, mentioned that the Emiratis left due to US inaction on Iranian threats.

Reports, citing US and Gulf officials, reported that the UAE was unhappy due to these events. Hence, the Emirate sought more measures to dissuade Iran. The UAE called the reports a “mischaracterization” of talks between the two countries.

How Navies Respond to Distress Calls

A general view shows the USS Milius DDG69, a multi-mission capable guided missile destroyer ship, docked at the Manila south harbor on August 18, 2012.  AFP PHOTO/NOEL CELIS

Navies have traditionally played critical roles in responding to distress calls at sea. This is to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals in need. They quickly organize their resources and launch a coordinated response in response to a distress call.

Verifying the legitimacy and urgency of the distress call is the first step. Authorities usually do this by compiling data on the emergency type, the distressed ship’s location, and the number of occupants. When they verify a distress call, individual ships send out search and rescue teams. 

Naval ships are outfitted with modern technology that allows them to keep in touch with the party in distress. This enables them to gather intelligence, reassure, and direct the crew or passengers on what needs to be done. The Navy always prioritizes the protection of individuals in need. Hence, they offer rapid medical care, possible evacuation, and necessary supplies.

Search and Rescue or SAR teams put in endless effort to find and reach the stranded vessel. They usually use radar, sonar, and other cutting-edge equipment to focus their search. In rare circumstances, small boats or helicopters carry out rescue operations, with help and coordination provided by larger naval vessels. The professionalism and dedication to saving lives at sea that characterizes the navy’s reaction to distress calls is an example of the humanitarian role that maritime forces all around the world perform as part of their daily duties at sea. 

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