Iran seizes oil tanker in Gulf of Oman

The Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker is linked with a dispute involving US sanctions.

Iran has taken control of an oil tanker flying the flag of the Marshall Islands in the Gulf of Oman.

The St Nikolas, which was on its way from the Iraqi port of Basra to Turkey, was intercepted by masked gunmen near the Omani port of Sohar, who forced it to change course and head to an Iranian port.

The motive behind the seizure of the tanker is unknown. On Thursday, UK Maritime Trade Operations reported that the ship had been boarded by four to five “unauthorised persons” wearing “black masks and black uniforms resembling military attire” at 03:30 GMT. They said they had lost contact with the vessel and were looking into the matter.

The Iranian army claimed that the vessel was American, even though it was officially owned by a Greek company. Empire Navigation, the company that operates the tanker, said it had 145,000 tonnes of crude oil on board and a crew of 18 Filipinos and one Greek.

The US had confiscated the St Nikolas in April, when it was called the Suez Rajan, as part of its sanctions against Iran. Suez Rajan Limited, the previous charterer of the ship, admitted to breaking the sanctions by secretly selling and shipping oil for Iran.

This incident seems to have no connection to the attacks by the Houthi rebels from Yemen in the Red Sea, on the other side of the Arabian peninsula. The Houthis, who are purportedly supported by Iran, have been targeting ships that they believe are associated with Israel, in response to Israel’s actions in Gaza.

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