Iran has claimed responsibility for the hijacking of an oil tanker by ‘six military men’ in the Gulf of Oman this morning that once was at the centre of a major crisis between Tehran and Washington.
The seizure of the tanker was carried out upon an Iranian judicial order, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said this afternoon, shortly after the vessel appeared to have changed course towards Iran.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency later confirmed a tanker had been seized by Iran’s navy.
The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker St Nikolas was boarded by armed intruders as it sailed close to the Omani city of Sohar, according to British maritime security firm Ambrey.
Its AIS tracking system was turned off as it headed in the direction of the Iranian port of Bandar-e-Jask, and security cameras were covered by the hijackers as they took control of the ship
The vessel is manned by a crew of 19 including 18 Filipino nationals and one Greek national, the operator said, adding it was chartered by Turkish oil refiner Tupras.
Some 145,000 metric tonnes of oil are thought to be loaded on the ship which was heading to Aliaga in western Turkey, its operator Empire Navigation told Reuters, before it lost contact with the vessel.