Tensions Escalate as Iran Seizes another Tanker in Red Sea

On Thursday, January 11th, the Iranian naval forces took control of an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which had been a focal point of tensions between the United States and Iran in the previous year.

The disagreement revolved around the U.S. apprehending the vessel and its crude oil cargo last year, alleging that Iran had breached sanctions imposed by the U.S. due to concerns about its nuclear program. This disagreement persisted for almost a year and culminated in the U.S. confiscating one million barrels of Iranian crude oil.

Initially known as the Suez Rajan, the vessel underwent a name change to St. Nikolas. It is operated by Empire Navigation, a Greek maritime company. The company confirmed the loss of communication with the ship, which is crewed by 19 individuals, consisting of 18 Filipinos and one Greek national.

In February 2022, the Suez Rajan drew attention when the activist group United Against Nuclear Iran alleged that the vessel was illicitly transporting sanctioned crude oil from Iran. Subsequently, in September 2023, Empire Navigation admitted guilt to charges of smuggling crude oil and consented to a fine of $2.4 million.

According to Tasnim News Agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, the seizure of the ship was described as a response to the alleged oil theft by the U.S. government under a judicial order. The report stated that the confiscated oil would be handed over to Iran’s judicial authorities. In a statement to the United Nations, Iran asserted that this action was lawful.

This situation unfolds amidst heightened tensions arising from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza. Iran, with its well-known anti-Israel stance, has been backing Houthi rebels in their assaults on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Iran asserts that this support is a reaction to the conflict involving Hamas. Concerns have been publicly raised by certain figures in the oil industry, expressing apprehension that if the Israel-Gaza conflict escalates into a broader regional dispute, it could have repercussions on crude oil exports in the vicinity.




Most Popular