Oil tanker boarded near Oman
An oil tanker was boarded by unidentified armed individuals in military uniforms early this morning, some 50 nautical miles east of Sohar, Oman, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.
Upon boarding, the vessel has reportedly altered course toward Iranian territorial waters and communication with the vessel has been lost. Authorities are said to be investigating the case, according to UKMTO.
The circumstances of the apparent seizure remain unclear, adding complexity to the situation in the volatile Middle East waterways.
The vessel has been identified as the St. Nikolas, by British private security firm Ambrey. The vessel, formerly known as the Suez Rajan, was involved in a yearlong dispute leading to the U.S. Justice Department seizing 1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil from it.
The vessel’s history dates back to February 2022 when suspicions arose regarding its transport of oil from Iran’s Khargh Island. In September 2023, Empire Navigation, the Greek shipping company associated with the vessel, pleaded guilty to smuggling sanctioned Iranian crude oil, resulting in a $2.4 million fine.
Suspicions immediately turned towards Iran, given the vessel’s history and its past involvement in the dispute. The incident follows a series of attacks by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on shipping in the Red Sea, raising the risk of potential retaliatory actions by U.S.-led forces patrolling the strategic waterway.
The incident adds to the complexities in the region, with tensions escalating over recent Houthi attacks, UN Security Council condemnations, and potential consequences warned by American and British officials.