MARAD Renews Warning of Risks to U.S. Ships in Strait of Hormuz

Iranian forces in an exercise in the Strait of Hormuz (file image via state media)

Published Jan 7, 2020 11:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran rise, the U.S. Maritime Administration has renewed its warning to American shipping about the potential risks of operation in the Gulf of Oman and Strait of Hormuz. 

In an announcement first issued in August and renewed on Monday, MARAD cautioned that heightened military activity and increased political tensions in this region pose serious threats to commercial vessels. This includes a potential for miscalculation or misidentification that could lead to aggressive action. 

In addition to this risk, vessels operating in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman may also encounter GPS interference, bridge-to-bridge communications spoofing or other communications jamming without warning.

Since May 2019, the following maritime incidents have occurred in this region:

- Six attacks against commercial vessels 
- The shoot-down of a U.S. Navy drone aircraft over international waters;
- The attempted at-sea interdiction of the Isle of Man-flagged M/V British Heritage;
- The seizure of the ex-Panama-flagged Riah
- The seizure and release of U.K.-flagged Stena Impero; and
- The detention and release of Liberian-flagged Mesdar.

The U.S. government has attributed all of these incidents to Iran. 

MARAD advises that if a U.S. flag ship is hailed by Iranian forces, it should provide vessel name and flag state, and should affirm that it is proceeding in accordance with international law. The master should inform the U.S. Fifth Fleet Battle Watch. If Iranian forces seek to board, the ship’s master should decline permission (if safe to do so) and immediately inform the U.S. Fifth Fleet Battle Watch.

Additional guidance is available at MARAD's alert site.