The Greek owner of a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker has reached out to US authorities, urgently seeking their assistance in the release of the vessel and its crew, consisting of a Greek national and 18 Filipino seafarers. Empire Navigation, confirmed on Friday that the ship has anchored at the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran since Thursday. There were some concerns, that the tanker was anchored near Bandar Abbas before confirmation. This port is known as a place where seized vessels are anchored in.

Empire Navigation said it has not been able to reach the crew after the takeover, as the hijackers have turned off the satellite-based communications system. It said that all Greek and international authorities as well as relatives of the crew members were notified as soon as the event occurred.

The distressing incident unfolded when the ship, laden with Iraqi oil en route to Turkey, fell victim to a hijacking.

This unfortunate event follows a history of legal complications involving the tanker. In September of the previous year, Empire Navigation admitted to violating US sanctions by transporting a cargo of Iranian crude oil on the same vessel, then named Suez Rajan.

The vessel faced further scrutiny in April of that year when it was seized by Washington for engaging in oil transfers off the coast of Singapore. In response, Empire Navigation entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the US, committing to transporting around 800,000 barrels of illicit Iranian crude to the US for subsequent seizure and forfeiture.

MSC Aries raided by Iranian commandos near Strait of Hormuz MSC Aries raided by Iranian commandos near Strait of Hormuz

Iran reacted to the tanker's arrest by seizing two vessels in the Strait of Hormuz within a week, asserting that the Iranian navy's actions were not a hijacking but a legal operation sanctioned by a court order. In a statement to The Associated Press, Iran's mission to the United Nations emphasized that the seizure was in response to the alleged theft of Iran's own oil.

The Greek owner's plea to US authorities marks a critical development in the ongoing maritime incident, underscoring the complex geopolitical landscape surrounding the tanker and its troubled history.