An American oil tanker reported to have been hijacked in the Gulf of Oman earlier on Thursday was seized by Iran in retribution for the U.S. seizure of 1 million barrels of Iranian oil last year.
The Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker, the St. Nikolas, was previously named the Suez Rajan, which was entangled in a sanctions dispute for transporting Iranian oil that eventually led to the seizure of that oil in 2023.
The Suez Rajan had been accused by the U.S. of violating sanctions, with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) using it to sell sanctioned oil to China. Last year, Iran vowed revenge for the incident.
On Thursday, the vessel was boarded by men in masks near Oman’s Port of Sohar. On its way between Basria, Iraq, to Turkey, the hijacked ship was ordered to sail for Iran and communications with the vessel were lost. Shortly afterwards, Iran’s state-run TV reported that the Iranian Navy had seized the vessel.
“The violating oil tanker Suez Rajan … stole Iranian oil by leading it to the Americans and delivered it to the Americans,” state TV said.
“After the theft of Iranian oil by the United States last year, St Nikolas tanker was seized by Iran’s Navy this morning with a judicial order … it is en route to Iranian ports,” Iran’s Fars news agency reported, citing the Iranian Navy.
The tanker was reportedly carrying 145,000 metric tonnes of oil loaded in Iraq and bound for Turkey via the Suez Canal. The hijacking of the vessel comes at a time of escalating tensions in the Red Sea, where Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been targeting merchant vessels; however, this hijacking took place in a different area of the waterways between Iran and Oman and near the Strait of Hormuz.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com