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US warns Gulf ships of Iranian GPS interference

The US has accused Iran of using GPS interference to disrupt Gulf shipping and trick vessels into entering Iranian waters.

The US Department of Transportation issued a warning to commercial shipping companies that Iran is using: “GPS interference, bridge-to-bridge communications spoofing, and/or other communications jamming with little or no warning. Vessels have also reported spoofed bridge-to-bridge communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be US or allied warships.”

The department noted that during two of the recent encounters with Iranian military forces in the Straits of Hormuz vessels, including the British-flagged M/V Stena Impero: “GPS interference … one vessel reportedly shut off its Automatic Identification System before it was seized, complicating response efforts”.

A US defence official told CNN that Iran has deployed GPS jammers on Abu Musa Island, located in the Gulf near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, in order to disrupt civilian aircraft and ship navigation systems.

According to the semi-official Tasnim news agency, Iran’s Defence Minister Amir Hatami told his counterparts from Qatar, Oman and Kuwait: “The maritime coalition that the US is trying to form will create more instability and insecurity.” He also warned that any Israeli involvement in a US-led naval operation in the Strait of Hormuz would have “disastrous consequences” for the region.

Earlier in the week, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz reportedly said that Israel is assisting the US-led mission to protect ships traveling along the narrow sea passage.

The Financial Times reports this morning that private security firms Ambrey and Maritime Asset Security have removed British guards from ships in the Gulf because of fears that Iran could try to capture UK nationals. The report notes that the maritime security industry has traditionally been dominated by former members of elite British units, such as the Royal Marines, Parachute Regiment, SAS and SBS.