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Iran Releases Greek Cadet From Seized Tanker St. Nikolas

Iran seized opil tankers
Iran has a history of seizing tankers in retaliation having also recently held two Greek tankers and their crews for months (Image courtesy Mehr News / CC BY 4.0)

Published Jan 18, 2024 2:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

The youngest member of the crew aboard the tanker St. Nikolas which was seized by the Iranian Navy last Thursday has been released. The vessel’s managers, Empire Navigation issued a statement saying that the Greek cadet has been released and is on a flight back to Greece.

Empire Navigation, the Greek government, and the Philippines have all been working for the release of the crew from the tanker which was seized off the coast of Oman and taken back to Bandar Abbas in Iran on January 12. Empire Navigation has reported that satellite communication with the tanker remains disabled and it can only communicate with the ship through intermediaries.

The St. Nikoloas (158,500 dwt) which is under charter to the Turkish oil refinery Tupras, was sailing laden with a cargo of about 145,000 mts of crude oil loaded in Basrah, Iraq, and destined for Aliaga, Turkey, when it was boarded by the Iranians on January 11. The company reports there are 18 Filipinos aboard as the crew plus one Greek cadet.

Empire Navigation said the safety and wellbeing of the crew is always its top priority. It continues to work to gain the release of the remaining crewmembers.

A representative from the P&I agency visited the ship over the weekend and reported back that the crew was in good health and had been permitted to contact their families. Empire Navigation expects that the Philippines’ ambassador to Iran will be visiting the ship after gaining permission from the local authorities.

The Department of Migrant Workers and the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines both said that they were working to secure the release of the crew. The DMW reported at the beginning of the week that it had seen a photo of the crew as “proof of life,” and that everyone was in good condition.  The government and the shipping company both are providing aid to the families of the kidnapped crewmembers. The Greek Foreign Ministry also said it had been working to bring the cadet home and gain the release of the crewmembers.

All of this came as Iran held a press conference on Wednesday to justify the seizure of the tanker. They said it was confiscated by the Iranian Navy in the Sea of Oman in compliance with international law. 

“Iran has taken back what had been stolen by the U.S.,” Navy Commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani told reporters according to the Tasmin News Agency in Tehran. The newspaper says the navy commander “underlined that Iran has acted in accordance with the norms of international law in seizing the oil tanker.” The Iranian spokesperson said the navy had judicial approval and confirmation from the Ports and Shipping Organization to undertake the seizure.