Iran releases 1 of 18 Filipinos aboard seized oil tanker, DFA says

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

February 20, 2024, 5:15 pm

<p>Department of Foreign Affairs <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Department of Foreign Affairs (File photo)

MANILA – One of the 18 Filipinos aboard the oil tanker ST Nikolas that was seized by Iranian authorities in January has been released, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed Tuesday.

DFA Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega said the seafarer was freed Feb. 4.

His fellow crew members are still on the ship.

“The others are there out of their free will as they are being paid double their salary,” he said in a text message. “What is needed is for the agency to replace them with other seafarers."

From the recent talks between Iran and the Philippines, De Vega said there is no indication about the ship’s release “as this is with Iranian courts.”

The freed Filipino national follows the release of a Greek cadet who was able to leave the oil tanker much earlier in January.

Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker ST Nikolas in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 11 while the ship was in transit between the Iraqi port of Basra and Turkey.

The oil tanker, previously named Suez Rajan, had been the subject of attention in 2023 when the more than 980,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil it was carrying were confiscated by the United States in a sanction enforcement operation.

Earlier reports quoting the Iranian Navy said the seizure was in retaliation for the US confiscation.

“The tanker, renamed ST Nicholas, was seized on Thursday (January 11), with a judicial order and in retaliation for the theft of Iran’s oil by the US,” Iran-based Fars News Agency previously wrote, citing a statement from the Navy. (PNA)