Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Iran Claims To Have Seized U.S. Ship, U.S. Navy Dispatches Destroyer

Iran Claims To Have Seized U.S. Ship

The Iranian organ Farsnews claims that Iran has seized a U.S. ship. Thirty-four are on board, the outlet claims. Fars claims
The Iranian Navy has confiscated the American trade vessel with all its 34 crew for trespassing on Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf.
An Iranian warship is now taking the American vessel to Iran's Southern port city of Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf.
There has been no official confirmation of the seizure yet.
Al Arabiya is reporting that U.S. has been fired on by the Iranians:
Iran has fired at a U.S. cargo ship and has directed it to Bandar Abbas port on the southern coast of Iran, Al Arabiya News Channel has reported on Tuesday.
Up to 34 American sailors are believed to be onboard the ship, Al Arabiya reported.
CNBC reports the U.S. Navy says the claims are false:
Senior U.S. Navy officials told NBC News there had not been any confrontation between Iran's Revolutionary Guard and any Navy ships, however. 

U.S. Navy Dispatches Destroyer After Iran 'Fires Warning Shots And Boards Cargo Ship'

The US and Iran are eyeballing each other again after Iranian forces boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Gulf and the American Navy dispatched a destroyer to monitor the situation.

It was initially reported that a US cargo ship had been shot at and boarded, but it later emerged the ship was the MV Maersk Tigris, a Danish owned vessel registered in the Marshall Islands.

The Pentagon said in a statement that Iranian forces boarded the ship at around 9am local time on Tuesday after firing a warning shot across its bows as it was traveling through the Strait of Hormuz.

“The master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters. He declined and one of the Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris,” said spokesman Col Steve Warren.
“The master complied with the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters in the vicinity of Larak Island.”

Mr Warren said that the US Navy responded to a distress call and dispatched a Navy Destroyer, USS Farragut to travel to the cargo ship as quickly as possible “to observe the interaction”.

He added: "[Navy Central Command] is communicating with representatives of the shipping company and we continue to monitor the situation. According to information received from the vessel's operators, there are no Americans aboard.”
Reuters said that Maersk, the Danish owners of the 65,000-tonne container ship, had told a Danish news channel there were 24 crew members, most of them from eastern Europe and Asia.

The vessel has been directed to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas on the southern coast, Al-Arabiya reported. Iran's state news agency IRNA, quoted Mohammad Saidnejad, head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation, as saying a court in Tehran had given the order to seize the ship.

U.S.-Flagged Ship Intercepted By Iranian Patrol

A U.S.-flagged ship was recently intercepted by an Iran Revolutionary Guard naval patrol, the U.S. Navy revealed to CNN Tuesday.
The incident occurred on Friday when four Iranian naval vessels surrounded the U.S.-flagged Maersk Kensington in the Strait of Hormuz. 
The episode came ahead of an encounter Tuesday in which Iran Revolutionary Guard patrol boats fired shots at a commercial cargo ship and then intercepted the vessel, the Marshall Islands-flagged M/V Maersk Tigris, which was also crossing the Strait of Hormuz.
A senior U.S. military official told CNN that "the Iranians encircled the Kensington and followed the ship on its course for a period of time before withdrawing and breaking away." After that, the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet issued a notice to mariners about the incident.
Referring to Tuesday's incident, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said it was "inappropriate" for the Iranians to fire the warning shots.
The U.S. Navy has dispatched one maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe and monitor the situation, Warren told reporters.
    Despite reports in some media, there are no Americans on board, according to a U.S. official.

    According to the shipping company, which is in contact with the U.S. military, on Tuesday evening the vessel was being escorted towards Bandar Abbas on the coast of Iran by Iranian patrol boats. The Pentagon thinks about 30 individuals are on board.
    At this point, no U.S. military action is expected on the ship that was seized Tuesday aside from monitoring the situation. The U.S. believes that Iranians will "send the ship on its way," the senior official said. 
    State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke noted Tuesday afternoon that he U.S. has a security compact with the Marshall Islands on defense issues.
    After the shots were fired, the Tigris issued a distress call that was picked up by U.S. forces in the area, and the USS Farragut was ordered to head towards the incident. The closest U.S. warship was 60 miles away.

    "We have been in communication with U.S. shipping industry representatives with regards to how their vessels should respond to threatening encounters with foreign naval forces and how to contact us, " the U.S. official said, declining to provide the specific advice being given. In the incident Friday, no shots were fired.

    Even though the Strait of Hormuz is in Iranian territorial waters, "innocent passage" is applied -- ships are authorized to pass through the body of water assuming they abide by all the rules of the sea -- because it is an internationally recognized shipping lane.
    Warren said it was "to be determined" what the USS Farragut will do when it reached the vicinity of the incident.

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