An oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman was boarded by “unauthorized” people in “military-styled black uniforms” early on Thursday morning, an advisory group run by the British military and a private intelligence firm warned.

Details remained unclear regarding what was apparently the latest seizure of a vessel in the tense Middle East waterways.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Middle East, said the incident began early in the morning in waters between Oman and Iran in an area transited by ships coming in and out of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all oil traded passes.

The UK military-run group described receiving a report from the ship’s security manager of hearing “unknown voices over the phone” alongside the ship’s captain. It said that further efforts to contact the ship had failed.

The private intelligence firm Ambrey said that “six military men” boarded the ship, which it identified as the oil tanker St. Nikolas. It said that the men had covered the surveillance cameras as they boarded.

The St. Nikolas is associated with the Greek shipping company Empire Navigation. The Athens-based firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In September, Empire Navigation pleaded guilty to smuggling sanctioned Iranian crude oil and agreed to pay a $2.4 million fine over a case involving the tanker Suez Rajan, which carried some 1 million barrels of oil.

The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Persian Gulf, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the incident. Iran and Oman did not immediately acknowledge the boarding.

Since the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal in 2018, waters around the strait have seen a series of ship seizures by Iran, as well as assaults targeting shipping that the US Navy has blamed on Tehran. Iran and the US Navy also have had a series of tense encounters in the waterway.

Recently however, attention has been focused on the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen attacking ships in the Red Sea amid Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council demanded an immediate halt to Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea in a resolution that implicitly condemned the group’s main weapons supplier — Iran.

The resolution condemned “in the strongest terms” at least two dozen attacks carried out by the Houthis on merchant and commercial vessels, which the resolution says are impeding global commerce and undermining navigational freedom.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have said they launched the attacks with the aim of ending Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which was triggered by the deadly onslaught in southern Israel on October 7 in which thousands of Hamas-led terrorists slaughtered some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and seized around 240 hostages.

The United States and its allies also have been seizing Iranian oil cargoes since 2019, which in return has led to a series of attacks in the Middle East attributed to the Islamic Republic, as well as ship seizures by Iranian military and paramilitary forces that threaten global shipping.

Source » timesofisrael