On April 27th, a US Navy warship fired warning shots at three small Iranian speedboats that came quite close to it and a Coast Guard cutter operating in international waters in the Persian Gulf.
IRGCN repeatedly crossed the bows of the U.S. vessels at an unnecessarily close range, requiring U.S. ships to make defensive maneuvers to avoid the risk of a possible collision.
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) April 27, 2021
An earlier incident on April 2nd marked the first time in more than a year that Iranian vessels have harassed American ships in the area.
The April 27 incident occurred as three Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) speedboats approached the U.S. Navy patrol craft USS Firebolt and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Baranoff operating in the northern Persian Gulf.
The three Iranian boats rapidly approached the two American ships at what a U.S. Navy spokesperson called “an unnecessarily close range, with unknown intent” coming quite close to both ships.
“The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and loud-hailer devices, but the IRGCN vessels continued their close range maneuvers,” said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokesperson for the Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees U.S. Naval operations in the Middle East.
“The crew of Firebolt then fired warning shots and the IRGCN vessels moved away to a safe distance from the U.S. vessels,” she added.
Rebarich said that the actions of the three Iranian boats “increased the risk of miscalculation and/or collision” and did not follow the maritime “rules of the road.”
The April 2nd and 27th incidents were of different categories.
“We do not assess this is a new trend,” Rebarich said of both incidents. “We assess every interaction based on the facts and circumstances.”
She noted that in the April 2 incident, the IRGCN catamaran Harth 55 conducted “aggressive, unsafe, harassing maneuvers against our ships” while the intent of the three Iranian speed boats on April 27th was “unclear”.
“The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns, and while the Harth 55 responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, they continued the unsafe maneuvers.
After approximately three hours of the U.S. issuing warnings and conducting defensive maneuvers, the IRGCN vessels maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened the distance between them.
The IRGCN’s actions were deemed unsafe and unprofessional. Their actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) “rules of the road” or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area.”
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