Five Iranian boats fired shots across the bow of a Singapore-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Thursday, causing it to flee to a nearby port in the United Arab Emirates.
A spokesman for Transpetrol, the Norwegian manager of the Alpine Eternity, told Reuters that the vessel was attacked at sea while heading to the UAE port of Fujairah. The ship is now docked at the UAE port of Jebel Ali and is safe, with no injuries to the crew, the spokesman added.
Alpine Eternity was in the Persian Gulf headed for the Strait of Hormuz on an outbound track when she was approached by 5 Iranian Revolutionary Gard Corps Navy patrol craft Thursday and ordered into Iranian waters. When Alpine Eternity refused, the Iranians fired warning shots and then attempted to disable the cargo ship by firing at the ship’s rudder. Alpine Eternity then turned toward UAE territorial waters and was pursued by the five Iranian patrol boats.
Iran appeared to be trying to intercept the ship in order to settle a legal dispute, a U.S. official told Reuters.
The Alpine Eternity reportedly hit an Iranian-owned oil platform in March, the official said.
UAE Navy patrol boats answered a distress call from Alpine Eternity and raced out to Alpine Eternity’s position causing the Iranian vessels to reverse course and vacate the area.
At no time was the U.S. Navy involved in this incident, a Pentagon official told Fox News. The U.S. military’s Central Command, responsible for the Persian Gulf region, is "in discussions" about what actions it will take in response to the incident today.
Alpine Eternity left the port of Hidd in Bahrain on May 13, according to a maritime tracking site.
This latest incident of Iranian harassment of a merchant vessel comes just a week after the U.S. Navy ended its accompany mission of U.S. and British-flagged cargo ships in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy ended the accompany mission a day before Iran released Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship seized on April 28.
The attack on the Alpine Eternity has been reported to Singaporean authorities.
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.