The bulk carrier Venture, reportedly targeted by fast-attack boats of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Sunday

The US and UK navies have prevented Iran’s seizure of another merchant ship in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s oil passes.

Three fast-attack Revolutionary Guard vessels with armed troops approached the merchant ship at a close distance on Sunday afternoon. Black-and-white images, taken by a US Navy Boeing P-8 Poseidon flying overhead, showed the attempted interception.

The guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul and the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Lancaster, which launched a helicopter, responded.

“The situation deescalated approximately an hour later when the merchant vessel confirmed the fast-attack craft departed the scene,” the US Navy said. “The merchant ship continued transiting the Strait of Hormuz without further incident.”

Ship-tracking data indicated the threatened merchant ship was the Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier Venture, which erratically changed course as it travelled through the Strait of Hormuz.

The Venture, travelling from Mumbai in India, is now at port in the UAE.

The Revolutionary Guards may have been retaliating again for the apparent seizure of the oil tanker Suez Rajan off the coast of Singapore.

The tanker, linked to a US private equity firm and believed to be carrying sanctioned Iranian crude oil, is now off the coast of Texas.

The Guards have carried out a series of seizures in recent years, as the US and the European Union impounded tankers with Iranian oil.

At the end of April, Iran seized the Turkish-operated, Chinese-owned tanker Advantage Sweet, carrying Kuwaiti crude oil for the US energy firm Chevron.

The operation came days after the Suez Rajan and its cargo of oil were confiscated by the US Navy.