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St Nikolas crew all ‘safe and in good health’

Psychological counselling service set up to support families of crew held on tanker

Greek manager has been unable to directly contact 19 seafarers on hijacked tanker, but P&I club correspondent says all are unharmed

SEAFARERS held on board the latest tanker to be hijacked by Iranian forces are unharmed and well, according to the ship’s Greece-based managers.

There are 18 Filipino seafarers and one Greek national, reportedly a 20-year-old cadet officer, in the crew of the Marshall Islands-flagged St Nikolas (IMO: 9524475) that was seized early on Thursday morning off the coast of Oman.

Empire Navigation said that the vessel’s local P&I club correspondent had successfully made contact with the Iranian authorities on Sunday.

Databases list the American Club as providing the P&I cover for St Nikolas.

According to the correspondent, “all the crew members on board St Nikolas are safe and in good health”, the company said.

Empire “has not been in direct touch with their crew since the vessel’s seizure on January 11 and the satellite communications system remains disabled”, it stated.

St Nikolas remains anchored in the vicinity of the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran.”

Since the hijacking, the shipping company has underlined that the well-being of the seafarers has been its “utmost priority”.

During the weekend it established a mental health and psychological support service for the families of those held on board the vessel, provided by professional counsellors.

The support would be extended to the seafarers themselves after their release, said Empire.

Under its previous name, Suez Rajan, the tanker was last year at the centre of a US seizure of sanctioned Iranian crude oil — a case that appears to have made the vessel a target for the Iranians.

Iranian media has released footage purporting to be of last week’s operation to seize the vessel, showing a navy helicopter landing on the deck of the tanker and one of the tanker crew being forced at gunpoint to lie face down on the deck.

Iran has already denied that its action constitutes hijacking of the tanker, claiming that it was a lawful undertaking sanctioned by a court order.

It has also said that the move “corresponds to the theft of Iran’s very own oil”, presumably a reference to the US’s confiscation of the Suez Rajan cargo last year.

The tanker is laden with a cargo of about 145,000 tonnes of crude, loaded at the Iraqi port of Basrah for Turkish charterer Tupras.


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