Iran confirms it seized oil tanker in Gulf of Oman after 'armed men' were seen boarding

Iran confirms it seized oil tanker in Gulf of Oman after
# 11 January 2024 18:04 (UTC +04:00)

Iran confirms its forces have seized an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which was reportedly boarded by armed men in military uniforms earlier in the day, APA reports citing ITV news.

The state-run IRNA news agency ran a brief story acknowledging the seizure by Iran’s navy. It did not identify the vessel, but said the seizure came as a result of a judicial order.

Details remained unclear in what was apparently the latest seizure of a vessel in the tense Middle East waterways.

However, suspicion immediately fell on Iran as the ship was once known as the Suez Rajan and had been involved in a year-long dispute that ultimately saw the US Justice Department seize one million barrels of Iranian crude oil on it.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Middle East, said the incident began early in the morning in waters between Oman and Iran in an area transited by ships coming in and out of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all oil traded passes.

The UK military-run group described receiving a report from the ship's security manager of hearing “unknown voices over the phone” alongside with the ship's captain.

It said that further efforts to contact the ship had failed and that the men who boarded the vessel wore "black military-style uniforms with black masks."

The private intelligence firm Ambrey said that “six military men” boarded the ship, which it identified as the oil tanker St. Nikolas. It said that the men had covered the surveillance cameras as they boarded.

The St. Nikolas had earlier been named the Suez Rajan, associated with the Greek shipping company Empire Navigation.

Attention began focusing on the Suez Rajan in February 2022, when the group United Against Nuclear Iran said it suspected the tanker carried oil from Iran’s Khargh Island, its main oil distribution terminal in the Persian Gulf.

Satellite photos and shipping data analysed at the time by the AP supported the allegation.

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