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Oil tanker St. Nikolas with 18 Filipino crewmen hijacked near Oman

Oil tanker with 18 Filipino crewmen hijacked near Oman
Reuters January 12,2024

The Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker St. Nikolas was boarded by armed intruders as it sailed close to the Omani city of Sohar, according to British maritime security firm Ambrey, and its AIS tracking system was turned off as it headed in the direction of the Iranian port of Bandar-e-Jask.

A spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the vessel had a crew of 19, one from Greece and 18 from the Philippines, and was carrying 145,000 metric tons of oil from Basra, Iraq, to Aliaga, Turkey.

2023 seizure

In 2023, the St. Nikolas was seized by the United States in a sanctions enforcement operation when it sailed under a different name, Suez Rajan.

The United States said at the time that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had been trying to send contraband Iranian oil to China, in violation of US sanctions.

The oil tanker loaded 145,000 MT of oil in the Iraqi port of Basra and was heading to Aliaga in western Turkey via the Suez Canal, its operator Empire Navigation told Reuters, adding that it had lost contact with the vessel.

The vessel is manned by a crew of 19 including 18 Filipino nationals and one Greek national, the operator said, adding it was chartered by Turkish oil refiner Tupras.
Close to Hormuz

While Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis have since October attacked commercial vessels in the Red Sea to show support for Hamas Islamists battling the Israeli offensive in Gaza, those incidents have been concentrated on the Bab al-Mandab Strait, to the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula.

Thursday’s incident is located closer to the Strait of Hormuz, between Oman and Iran.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) authority said earlier on Thursday it had received a report that a vessel located around 50 nautical miles east of Oman’s coast was boarded by four to five armed persons. The armed intruders were reported to be wearing military-style black uniforms and black masks.

UKMTO said the chief security officer reported the oil tanker had altered course toward Iranian territorial waters and that communication with the tanker had been lost.