Iran seizes oil tanker previously taken by US

The Cradle, January 11, 2024 —

The tanker, which was transiting off the coast of Oman, was seized last year in a US ‘sanctions enforcement’ operation.

Iran confirmed that its navy was behind the seizure of the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker near Oman’s coast on 11 January, which it said was taken in line with an Iranian court order.

“The Iranian Army Naval Forces seized an American oil tanker in the waters of the Sea of ​​Oman by judicial order,” the public relations office of Tehran’s navy announced on Thursday afternoon.

Citing UK maritime sources, Reuters had initially reported that an oil tanker had been boarded by unidentified armed men off the coast of Oman on 11 January and redirected towards Iran.

The tanker was identified by UK maritime security firm Ambrey as the Marshall Islands-flagged St Nikolas ship.

The ship was boarded at around 7:30am at approximately 50 miles from the Omani city of Sohar, and redirected towards the city of Bandar-e-Jask in Iran.

According to the security firm, Ambrey, “the individuals covered the vessel’s cameras” and that an officer “reported hearing unknown voices over the phone along with the master’s voice.”

“The armed suspects are reportedly wearing military-style black uniforms with black masks,” the security firm added.

According to the MarineTraffic tracking website, the St Nikolas was sailing from the Iraqi port of Basra and was en route to Turkiye. AP said that the tanker was loaded with oil at the Iraqi port.

The tanker which the Iranians have boarded today in the Gulf of Oman is the ST NIKOLAS (9524475); carrying Iraqi oil. Formerly known as the SUEZ RAJAN; she was seized by the US government for having transported a million barrels of Iranian oil in connection to a US company.

—, Inc. (@TankerTrackers) January 11, 2024

Ambrey said that the St Nikolas, formerly known as the Suez Rajan, is the same tanker seized by the US in April 2023 for carrying Iranian crude oil.

Washington seized the Suez Rajan in April 2023 in what was described by the Pentagon as “a sanctions-enforcement operation.” Washington also charged the ship owner with “sanctions evasion” and directed the cargo to waters 65 miles off Galveston, Texas.

Greek tanker management firm Empire Navigation pleaded guilty to smuggling sanctioned Iranian oil, and agreed to pay a $2.4 million fine, US court documents show.

According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the Suez Rajan came under Washington’s radar after an anti-Iran organization, the New York-based United Against Nuclear Iran, provided information about the ship’s cargo to government officials.

WSJ reported in July last year that US oil firms were “reluctant” to unload the oil because they were “too worried about Iranian reprisal.”

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