Crew of Iran-held tanker safe, says Greek owners

st nikolas tanker

In a statement, Empire Navigation confirmed that one of its associates had reached out to Iranian authorities and received confirmation that all crew members aboard the St Nikolas are safe and in good health.

However, Empire Navigation was unable to directly contact the 19-man crew of the Marshall Islands-flagged ship, as it is currently anchored near the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. The crew consists of 18 Filipinos and one Greek.

According to Iranian state media, Iran seized the ship off the coast of Oman in response to the alleged "theft" of its oil last year by the United States from the same vessel when it was named the Suez Rajan. The United States has condemned the seizure, describing it as an "unlawful seizure", and has demanded that Iran immediately release the ship and its crew. Iran has previously taken similar retaliatory actions following the seizure of its oil shipments.

The recent seizure comes amidst significant tensions between Iran and the United States. US sanctions on Iran's oil and petrochemical sales have been implemented to reduce Iran's energy exports following the US withdrawal from the 2018 nuclear deal. The St Nikolas, loaded with 145,000 tonnes of crude oil from Basra, Iraq, was en route to Aliaga in Turkey through the Suez Canal.

British maritime risk company Ambrey highlighted that the tanker, previously known as the Suez Rajan, had previously faced legal action and fines for transporting sanctioned Iranian oil, which was seized by US authorities. In September, the US announced the seizure of the Suez Rajan and its cargo of 980,000 barrels of crude oil, claiming that it was being sold by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to China.

The Gulf of Oman, a crucial route for the oil industry between Oman and Iran, has been a site of various hijackings and attacks over the years, often involving Iran. In addition, recent drone and missile attacks by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea have heightened security concerns in the region, prompting increased vigilance in maritime activities.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024