Tehran Cites 'Commercial Dispute' as U.S. Says Iran Forced Cargo Ship to Iranian Portإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Iran said a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship was ordered to dock in its Gulf port of Bandar Abbas on Tuesday because of a commercial dispute.
U.S. defence officials said at least five Iranian ships demanded that the Maersk Tigris head towards Iran's Larak Island while it was in the Straight of Hormuz.
"The ship confiscation order was issued by a court and is linked to the Maersk company," Hadi Haghshenas of the Iran Ports and Maritime Organization was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.
"Generally speaking, if a shipping company has debts and does not pay, the owners of the goods turn to the competent authorities," he said.
The Fars news agency, citing "an informed source", reported that the ship "had a dispute with the Iranian port administration, which obtained a court order to impound" it.
Tasnim said the Maersk Tigris was headed for Shahid-Bahonar, part of Iran's port complex at Bandar Abbas.
Iranian state television said sailors from Britain, Bulgaria, Myanmar and Romania make up the 24-strong crew, under the command of a Bulgarian.
Earlier, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said the captain "declined" the demand to alter course and one Iranian naval vessel "fired shots" across the bow of the Maersk Tigris.
It then "complied with the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters in the vicinity of Larak Island," he said.
The U.S. military's Central Command ordered a naval destroyer to the area and military aircraft were monitoring the situation, Warren said.
The destroyer was directed "to proceed at best speed to the nearest location of the Maersk Tigris", he said.
The incident occurred at about 0900 GMT in the Strait of Hormuz in Iranian territorial waters.
It came amid heightened tensions in the region as Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies wage a campaign of air strikes in Yemen against Iranian-backed Huthi rebels.
The United States is providing intelligence and aerial refueling for the Saudi-led coalition.
Iran regularly boards fishing boats accused of violating its territorial waters.
In 2013, the navy held for a month the Indian-government owned tanker MT Desh Shanti that Iran said had polluted Gulf waters.
But at the time, media reports in India suggested Iran may have detained the ship out of "displeasure" because it was carrying crude oil from rival Iraq.