Iran Seizes Gulf Oil Tanker 


Sudan Events – Sumaya Sayed

Iran said it has seized an oil tanker off the coast of Oman, escalating fears that the Islamic Republic could step up attacks against shipping in the Middle East’s waterways. Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, said Iranian naval forces captured an “American oil tanker” in the Gulf of Oman, acting on court orders. The news agency was quoting the navy but provided no further details. TankerTrackers, a private maritime intelligence service, identified the vessel as the St Nikolas, owned by Athens-based Empire Navigation, and said it was carrying Iraqi oil. That vessel was previously embroiled in a dispute between Tehran and Washington over the tanker’s involvement in breaching US sanctions. Empire said in October it had settled the dispute with the US Department of Justice. The incident will raise concerns that Tehran could threaten shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint, which lies just north of where the tanker was seized. Oil prices rose on Thursday, with Brent crude up almost 2 per cent on the day at $78 a barrel. Iranian forces have in the past seized tankers during periods of heightened tension with the US and other western states. Tehran has said it has no desire to see the current conflict between Israel and Hamas escalate into a broader regional war. But Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched more than 25 attacks on commercial shipping in the southern Red Sea since November, prompting threats of a military response by western powers. Empire Navigation said it had “lost contact” with St Nikolas at about 6.30am Athens time, while it was sailing off the coast of Oman. The ship had a crew of one Greek and 18 Filipinos.

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