US Naval Forces Central Command (Navcent) has sent the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Farragut, to monitor the situation after Iranian forces seized a US-flagged container ship, the Maersk Tigris.
The Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel sent a distress call after an Iranian Navy ship fired shots across its bridge and Iranian personnel boarded the vessel.
The vessel was reportedly in Iranian territorial waters transiting inbound in the Strait of Hormuz, between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the Arabian Sea.
Pentagon spokesman army colonel Steve Warren said: "The ship’s master was contacted and directed to proceed further into Iranian territorial waters.
"He declined and one of the IRGCN craft fired shots across the bridge of the Maersk Tigris."
The master of the vessel later accepted the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters near Larak Island, off the coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Warren added that as the Strait of Hormuz is recognised as containing international shipping lanes, ships that abide by international rules of the sea are authorised to pass through the strait.
Navcent’s area of responsibility includes the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
In addition, Navcent has also ordered a navy maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe the interaction between the Maersk vessel and the IRGCN craft.
The US has full authority and responsibility for security and defence of the Marshall Islands under the terms of an amended compact that entered into force in 2004.
Image: A MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter flies by the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut during a replenishment-at-sea evolution in the Arabian Sea on Dec 4, 2012. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo.