Published: 15:31, April 14, 2024
Philippines says 4 Filipino sailors aboard ship seized by Iranian forces
By Xinhua

In this Oct 18, 2021 photo, the MSC Aries, right, is seen moored at the Port of Los Angeles. (PHOTO / AP)

MANILA - The Philippines on Sunday said four Filipino sailors were among the crew of a container ship seized by Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf on Saturday.

In a statement, the Philippines' Department of Migrant Workers confirmed the seizure of the vessel MSC Aries "with four Filipino seafarers on board," adding that it has contacted the families of the four sailors.

The Portuguese-flagged container ship, named MSC Aries, was operated by London-based Zodiac Maritime, a company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported

The Philippine government has been coordinating with the licensed manning agency, the ship manager, and the operator to ensure the seafarers' safety and well-being and work on the release, the statement said.

The Portuguese-flagged container ship, named MSC Aries, was operated by London-based Zodiac Maritime, a company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

According to the IRNA, the special forces of the IRGC Navy boarded the vessel through a heliborne operation and then confiscated it.

It added that the ship was being directed towards the Iranian territorial waters.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency quoted an informed source as saying that the ship's tracking data had been turned off, and it had not responded to the inquiries made by Iranian forces.

The Philippines is among the biggest suppliers of maritime labor in the world, providing almost one-fifth of the worldwide 1.2 million seafarers, according to International Labor Organization.

Last November, 17 Filipino seafarers were taken hostage after an Israeli cargo ship was hijacked by Yemen's Houthi militants in the Red Sea. In March, two Filipino sailors were killed in a missile strike by Houthi militants on a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, off southern Yemen.