Greek-owned tanker seized by pirates anchored at Bandar Abbas port in Iran

st nikolas tanker

The Greek-owned tanker St. Nikolas, sailing under a Marshall Islands flag, that a group of five gunmen had seized off the coast of Oman on Thursday, has anchored at the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran, sources said on Friday.

The Greek foreign ministry is in charge of ensuring the safety and repatriation of a Greek national who is part of the tanker's crew, the source added.

According to ship owner Empire Navigation's latest announcement, the safety of the 19-member crew (18 Filipinos and one Greek) of the St. Nikolas remains the top priority.

It also said that it has immediately informed the competent authorities and is in constant contact with them, as well as with the crew members' families.

It is noted that the tanker left a few days ago from Basra (Iraq) loaded with roughly 145,000 of crude oil bound for Aliaga (Turkey) via the Suez Canal. The vessel's charterer was Tupras.

Greek Shipowner Seeks US Help with Tanker Seized by Iran

The Greek shipowner of the St. Nikolas oil tanker seized by Iran on Thursday said it sought any help from the US government in regaining control of its vessel in a US court filing, Reuters reports.

“While defendants hope to regain control over the vessel, their top priority is the safe return of its crew,” a lawyer for the Athens-based shipping company Empire Navigation Inc said in a filing to the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday.

“The US government … is well aware of this situation and Defendants appreciate whatever assistance the US government can provide.”

The Pentagon said Iranian forces unlawfully boarded the St Nikolas in the Gulf of Oman and forced it to change course toward Iranian territorial waters.

Empire Navigation acknowledged losing contact with the vessel, which has a crew of 18 Filipinos and one Greek national.

The vessel had loaded the previous days in Basrah (Iraq) a cargo of about 145,000 mts of crude oil destined for Aliaga (Turkey), via the Suez Canal. The charterer of the vessel is Tupras.

Empire Navigation said in a statement that as the manager of the vessel “has notified the pertinent authorities from the first moment and is in close and constant cooperation with them as well as with the crew members’ next of kin.”

White House condemns seizure of Greek tanker by Iran

The White House condemned the seizure. James S. Brady, the White House spokesman called for the immediate release of the tanker and its crew.

“We condemn this apparent seizure. The Iranian government should immediately release the ship and its crew. These provocative and unacceptable actions need to stop.

“We’ll continue to work with our allies and partners to deter and confront the full range of Iran’s concerning and destabilizing behavior in close coordination, of course, with the international community,” Brady stated.

The Greek tanker has been at the center of tensions between Tehran and Washington, which has long imposed sanctions on Iranian oil over its nuclear program.

The US Department of Justice had seized the tanker at sea last April when it was carrying Iranian oil and was called the Suez Rajan.

US authorities brought the tanker to the US Gulf Coast and it unloaded the oil after months of delays. The tanker was then renamed the St Nikolas and Empire Navigation continued to operate it under the new name.

The seizure of the Greek tanker was in retaliation for the confiscation last year by the United States, Iranian state media reported, a move likely to stoke regional tensions, according to Reuters.

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