Iran seized an American tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday in retaliation for the US previously seizing the same tanker and stealing a shipment of Iranian oil that it was carrying.
In April 2023, the US forced the tanker, formerly named Suez Rajan, to sail to Texas when it was carrying 800,000 barrels of Iranian oil using the pretext of sanctions enforcement.
The ship sat off the coast of Texas for months as Iran was warning of retaliation if it was discharged, and American companies did not want to be involved. But the oil, worth approximately $56 million, was eventually transferred to another tanker in August 2023.
Iran’s Fars news agency reported on Thursday: “Following the violation of the Suez Rajan in April and the theft of Iranian oil by the United States, the oil tanker renamed St. Nicholas was seized in retaliation this morning by the court order and the approval of the Ports and Shipping Organization by the strategic Navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army and transferred to Iranian ports.”
The report said the tanker was taken because it had stolen cargo belonging to Iran at the direction of the US. The St. Nicholas was seized after it was loaded with oil in Basra, Iraq, and was bound for Aliaga, Turkey, via the Suez Canal.
The US has a history of seizing tankers carrying Iranian oil and gas and outright stealing the cargo by selling it off for profit, and Iran has previously seized tankers in retaliation for US actions.
In 2022, the US seized a tanker carrying Iranian oil in Greece and attempted to take the cargo, but a Greek court ruled against the confiscation. Tehran seized two Greek tankers in response to the US move and released them after the court’s ruling.
In 2021, the US government sold 2 million barrels of Iranian oil for $110 million from a tanker seized near the UAE. During the Trump administration, the US sold off Iranian gas that was bound for Venezuela.