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Iran vows to secure 18 Filipino hostages

INSECURITY AT THE RED SEA. Graphic (top) shows container prices over time by shipping route, while the map shows maritime traffic density at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa from 2015 to 2020, a global alternative route to the Red Sea. AFP
Charles Dantes

Abducted Pinoy crew in Middle East now at 35

Manila has sought the help of Tehran to secure the release of 18 Filipino seafarers on board an oil tanker that Iran seized in the Gulf of Oman this week.

The Greek-owned Marshall Islands-flagged St Nikolas was seized off Oman two months after 17 Filipino seafarers were also abducted by Iran-backed Huthi rebels who hijacked MV Galaxy in November.

The two hostage incidents brought to 35 the total number of Filipino seafarers abducted in the Middle East region.

Huthi rebels earlier warned they will continue to hold the Israeli-owned MV Galaxy as long as Israel keeps on occupying and attacking Gaza, even as the Department of Foreign Affairs said it has received assurance from its contacts in Yemen that the 17 Filipino seafarers will soon be freed.

On the other hand, the St Nikolas 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.

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

DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Eduardo Jose de Vega said the 18 Filipino seafarers in the tanker seized by Iran appear to be in good condition.

“We can say that, so far, there is no indication that they are being harmed or mistreated. The Iranian ambassador assured that they will work on it so that they will be released as soon as possible,” he said.

The Gulf of Oman, a key route for the oil industry that separates Oman and Iran, has witnessed a series of hijackings and attacks over the years, often involving Iran.

Shipping in the resource-rich region is also on heightened alert following weeks of drone and missile attacks in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

Major shipping firms have rerouted cargo around the tip of Africa, hitting trade flows at a time when supply strains are putting upward pressure on inflation worldwide.

Since mid-November, the volume of shipping containers transiting through the Red Sea has dropped by 70 percent, according to maritime experts.

Denmark’s Torm on Friday became the latest tanker firm to halt transit through the southern Red Sea.

Dryad Global, a maritime security risk group, advised its clients to suspend Red Sea operations for 72 hours, citing the threat of Huthi retaliation. With AFP

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