Iranian naval forces, acting under a court order, seized Marshall Islands-flagged tanker "St Nikolas," Bloomberg reports, citing Iran's semi-official Tasnim agency reports. The report said St Nikolas is a "US oil tanker."
Earlier, research firm TankerTrackers said, "Iranians have boarded today in the Gulf of Oman is the ST NIKOLAS."
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. pic.twitter.com/0eMLbtIjwO— TankerTrackers.com, Inc. (@TankerTrackers) January 11, 2024
Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corp. chartered the tanker, which was transporting 140,00 tons of Iraqi SOMO crude. The vessel was en route to Aliaga in western Turkey.
* * *
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) authority reported hours ago a vessel was boarded by "4-5 armed unauthorized persons" about 50 miles east of Sohar, Oman.
"Unauthorized boarders are reported to be wearing military-style black uniforms with black masks. CSO reports that the vessel has altered its course towards Iranian territorial waters, and communications with the vessel have been lost," UKMTO said.
Bloomberg confirmed that the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker "St Nikolas" is the vessel that was hijacked. A previous report says that St Nikolas was seized by the US last year, sailing under a different name, "Suez Rajan," for transporting unauthorized Iranian cargo.
Empire Navigation, the vessel's operator, said the tanker was loaded with 145,000 tons of crude from the Iraqi port of Basra and was en route to Aliaga in western Turkey through the Suez Canal. It noted all communication with the vessel had been lost.
St Nikolas' Automatic Identification System (AIS), a tracking system that uses transceivers on ships to identify and locate vessels, was switched off. The vessel's last known position was about 50 miles east of Sohar late Wednesday night.
The hijacking incident was near another chokepoint: the Hormuz Strait between Oman and Iran.
Bloomberg noted crude prices in London rose about 2%.
The incident comes right after US Navy warships shot down two dozen missiles and drones in the Red Sea. The Associated Press dubbed the Iran-backed Houthis' attack as the "largest-ever barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea attack."
And now the Pentagon's Operation Prosperity Guardian mission to safeguard critical commercial shipping lanes has to worry about conflict spreading from the Red Sea to the Hormuz Strait.