Iran seizes oil tanker; abducted Pinoy seamen now total 35

By: Jacob Lazaro - | January 13,2024 - 07:36 AM

oil tanker Iran

The St Nikolas ship X1 oil tanker which seized by Iran with 18 Filipino crewmen on board. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

Iran’s navy on Thursday seized a Greek-owned, Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker off Oman, carrying 18 Filipino crewmen, according to the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

Hans Cacdac, officer in charge of DMW, said in an online press briefing on Friday that the M/T St. Nikolas had just come from Basra, Iraq, and was headed to Aliaga,Turkey, when it was intercepted at the Gulf of Oman.

READ: Oil tanker with 18 Filipino crewmen boarded by armed group near Oman

Iran confirmed the sea jacking purportedly to retaliate for the “theft” of its oil from the same tanker last year by the United States. The St. Nikolas was laden with 145,000 tons of crude oil.

Cacdac said the DMW has begun contacting the families of the 18 Filipino seafarers who were on board the oil tanker. Besides the 18 Filipinos, one Greek seafarer was also on board, said a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The incident brought to 35 the number of Filipino seamen abducted in sea jackings, after 17 Filipino seafarers were seized by Iran-backed Houthi rebels who began threatening commercial shipping in the Red Sea last November.

Cacdac said they had no further information on the 18 Filipinos from the St. Nikolas nor the 17 from the M/T Galaxy Leader, a car carrier operated by Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha.

Very little information

“We know that there are 18 Filipino crew on board the M/T St. Nikolas,” Cacdac said. “This is the information we have at this stage. Further announcements will be made regarding this and we look toward our colleagues at the DFA to take the lead in terms of the developments that are unfolding.”

The DFA had not issued any statement at press time, but the United States condemned what it called an “unlawful seizure” and demanded Iran “immediately release the ship and its crew.”

READ: DFA confirms 17 Filipino seafarers held hostage by Houthi rebels in Red Sea

According to AFP, four or five unauthorized boarders, reported to be wearing military-style black uniforms with black masks, boarded the St. Nikolas, which was previously called the “Suez Rajan.”

“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and threaten maritime security and stability,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command and Commander of the US 5th Fleet.

Release ship, crew

“The Iranian government must immediately release the ship and its crew,” US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.

Ambrey, a British maritime risk company, said the oil tanker, then named Suez Rajan, was previously prosecuted and fined for carrying sanctioned Iranian oil, which was confiscated by US authorities.

In September, the United States said it had seized the Suez Rajan and its cargo of 980,000 barrels of crude oil months earlier.

READ: Hijack attempt of tanker foiled off Yemen; 2 Filipino crewmen safe

Shortly after that seizure, Iran seized two oil tankers. First was the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet as it sailed toward the United States in the Gulf of Oman. Next was the Greek-owned Niovi, as it traveled from Dubai to Fujairah.

Shipping in the resource-rich region is also on heightened alert following weeks of drone and missile attacks in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels. —WITH A REPORT FROM AFP


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TAGS: crewmen, Filipinos, Iran, oil tanker

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