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Oil Prices Surge Following Oil Tanker Hijacking in Gulf of Oman

Tensions in the Middle Eastern shipping lanes continued to run high on Thursday amid reports of a hijacked oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which was boarded by masked individuals and forced to alter course toward Iran. 

The UK Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) said on Thursday that it had received a report of a vessel being boarded by 4-5 armed unauthorized persons in an area east of Sohar, Oman.

“Unauthorised boarders are reported to be wearing military style black uniforms with black masks,” the UKMTO said. 

The ship “has altered course towards Iranian territorial waters and communications with the vessel have been lost,” the UK authority said. 

According to TankerTrackers.com, the oil tanker “which the Iranians have boarded today in the Gulf of Oman is the ST NIKOLAS”, which is carrying Iraqi oil. Formerly known as the SUEZ RAJAN, the tanker was previously seized by the U.S. government after being found to transport a million barrels of Iranian oil in connection to a U.S. company, TankerTrackers.com noted. 

At the time of the incident, the vessel was traveling to the Turkish port of Aliaga after loading crude from the Iraqi Basrah Oil Terminal. 

A spokesperson for Empire Navigation, the company managing the St. Nikolas, told CNBC that it lost contact with the vessel on Thursday, but could not confirm an unauthorized boarding.

It was not immediately clear who boarded the oil tanker, but the latest incident shows that tensions in the waters in the Middle East are escalating. 

Early on Thursday, oil prices rose by nearly 2% amid intensified attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea this week.  

On Wednesday, Israel stepped up its attacks on Gaza and the Yemeni Houthis carried out what UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps called the largest attack in the area yet.  

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Per media reports citing U.S. Central Command, the U.S. and UK forces in the Red Sea shot down 21 drones and missiles on Tuesday alone. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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