Oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz (Archive)
Oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz (Archive)iStock

The US Navy says Iran attempted to seize two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz early Wednesday, firing shots at one of them.

According to AP, the US Navy says the Iranian naval vessels backed off after the US Navy responded, and both commercial ships continued their voyages.

Ambrey, a maritime intelligence service, said the tanker that was fired upon was a Bahamas-flagged, Greek-owned, US-managed crude oil tanker transiting from the United Arab Emirates to Singapore. It said the firing of shots happened 28 nautical miles northeast of Muscat, the capital of Oman.

“The Iranian navy did make attempts to seize commercial tankers lawfully transiting international waters,” said Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, spokesman for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. “The US Navy responded immediately and prevented those seizures.”

He added that the gunfire directed at the second vessel did not cause casualties or significant damage.

There was no immediate Iranian comment on the incidents.

The US Navy says Iran has seized at least five commercial vessels in the last two years and has harassed several others. Many of the incidents have occurred in and around the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all crude oil passes.

In April, the Iranian Navy seized the Advantage Sweet, a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker, in the Gulf of Oman. Six days later, it seized a second ship, the Niovi, a Panama-flagged tanker, as it left a dry dock in Dubai.

In May, the Mideast-based commanders of the US, British and French navies transited the Strait of Hormuz on Friday aboard an American warship.

The joint trip by the three navy chiefs aboard the USS Paul Hamilton, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, saw three fast boats of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard approach the vessel at one point.

Guardsmen stood by uncovered machine guns on their decks, while sailors aboard the Paul Hamilton similarly stood by loaded machine guns as others shot photographs and video of the vessels.

On the trip through the Strait of Hormuz, at least one Iranian drone watched the Paul Hamilton. Meanwhile, a US Navy Boeing P-8 Poseidon also was overhead. US forces also routinely fly drones in the region as well, while a Navy task force also has put some drones out to sea.