Iranian forces boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. said, denying an earlier report that the seized vessel was American.
The MV Maersk Tigris was fired at by patrol boats and boarded at about 9 a.m. GMT on Tuesday, after the captain refused an order to move deeper into Iranian waters, Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters at the Pentagon. The U.S. has sent a destroyer and aircraft to monitor the ship, he said, adding that no Americans were on board.
The ship was on an “internationally recognized maritime route” when it was intercepted by the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval force, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters in Washington. Cor Radings, an external spokesman for Rickmers Ship Management, the vessel’s manager, said it was in international waters and it wasn’t clear why it had been halted.
Iran’s Fars news agency said the vessel was seized by the navy, which was acting on a court order for its confiscation due to a financial dispute between the Iranian ports authority and the ship’s owners. The 34-member crew includes European nationals, Fars said.
Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television earlier said that the Iranians had seized an American ship, prompting a surge in oil prices. Brent crude rose as much as 1 percent, before paring most of the gains as it emerged that the report was inaccurate. It traded at $64.87 a barrel at 1:45 p.m. in New York, up 0.1 percent from the previous day’s close.
The waterways of the Persian Gulf, a region that holds about half the world’s oil, remain a potential flash point even as ties between the U.S. and Iran improve.
The two countries have cited progress in recent months in talks on a nuclear accord. They’re still opposed on many Middle Eastern issues, including the escalating war in Yemen where the U.S. supports the Saudi-backed government and Iran has ties with Shiite rebels.