Western-backed maritime forces in the Middle East on Saturday warned shippers traveling through the strategic Strait of Hormuz to stay as far away from Iranian territorial waters as possible to avoid being seized, The Associated Press reported.
A similar warning went out to shippers earlier this year ahead of Iran seizing two tankers traveling near the strait, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world’s oil passes.
While Iran and the US are now near an apparent deal that would see billions of Iranian assets held in South Korea unfrozen in exchange for the release of five Iranian-Americans detained in Tehran, the warning shows that the tensions remain high at sea.
The US recently announced it would be beefing up its use of fighter jets around the strategic Strait of Hormuz to protect ships from Iranian seizures.
Later, the Pentagon said that the United States will send additional F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, along with a warship to the Middle East.
American officials told AP last week that the US military is considering putting armed personnel on commercial ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz.
The US decided to beef up its presence in the region comes after Iran tried to seize two oil tankers near the strait last week, opening fire on one of them.
Officials have said that, in the past two years, Iran has harassed, attacked or interfered with the navigational rights of 15 internationally flagged commercial vessels.
In late April, Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet as it traveled 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.
The Strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway for global energy supplies, has often been a site of tense encounters between Americans and Iranian forces.
In early December, an Iranian patrol boat tried to temporarily blind US Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz by shining a spotlight toward the vessels and crossing within 150 yards of them.
Last August, an Iranian ship seized an American military unmanned research vessel in the Gulf but released it after a US Navy patrol boat and helicopter were deployed to the location.