Tanker issues distress call, saying it was being harassed by Iranian speed boats

Naval forces from the US and UK came to the aid of a commercial ship at the weekend that was being harassed by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy in the Strait of Hormuz, the US Navy said.

The unnamed merchant vessel, reported to be a tanker, said that three Iranian fast-attack craft with armed personnel n board approached and followed their vessel at a close distance while it transited the narrow strait. The radio distress call was made at 16:56 local time on Saturday.

A US Navy destroyer and a UK Royal Navy frigate both received the distress call, and the UK vessel launched a helicopter to provide surveillance. The US 5th Fleet also directed a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to monitor the scene.

Iranian state-controlled media outlet PressTV said that “Iran’s IRGC Navy has dismissed Western claims that a merchant ship was ‘harassed’ by its boats in the Strait of Hormuz as the elite force responded to a distress call and rushed to its help”. Brigadier General Abbas Gholamshahi, the commander of the IRGC Navy’s First Zone, said that a Marshall Islands-flagged trade vessel issued a distress call when it was approaching the Strait of Hormuz at 16:15 local time on Sunday June 4th.

“The command and control centre of Iran at the Hormuz Strait responded to the call immediately, and resolved the ship’s concerns about the presence of non-military light boats near it after considering the request and evaluating the situation in that region,” Gholamshahi told PressTV.

Gholamshahi said the trade vessel’s captain had complained he had spotted “three non-military light boats” at a distance of a few miles, voicing concern about possible harassment.

The situation had deescalated by about 18:00 when the merchant vessel confirmed the fast-attack craft had departed the scene, the US Navy said.