Reports of a third incident within a month involving Iran and a merchant vessel in the Strait of Hormuz does not yet constitute a “major threat” to commercial shipping, according to a US official.
“I’m not going to apply that label to it,” said US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke in responding to a question about the incident at a press briefing on 14 May.
Several news agencies reported on 14 May shots fired on the Singapore-flagged chemical tanker Alpine Eternity by Iranian naval vessels. The vessel, owned by Belgium’s Transpetrol, had been transiting the strait destined for the port of Jebel-Ali when it came under attack. AISLive data showed the vessel just outside the port hours after the reported attack.
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As of 1100 on 15 May, the US had confirmed only that no US citizens were on board the vessel.
Rathke noted, however, that the US is “very concerned about free flow of commerce and the freedom of navigation” in the region. “It’s certainly the case that we are paying close attention to the situation with regard to shipping in those waters.”
The US Maritime Administration on 1 May updated its guidance on US flag ships operating in or near the strait following separate incidents involving Iran and two Maersk vessels within a week in late April. The US Navy began escorting US and British-flagged commercial vessels transiting the strait on 1 May, but cancelled the mission on 6 May.