Iran has released 17 crew members of the Greek-owned tanker “St. Nikolas”, which was seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps in the Gulf of Oman last January.

The owner, Empire Navigation, released a statement confirming that the 11 remaining Filipino seamen aboard the St. Nikolas (with a capacity of 159,100 DWT, built in 2011) had been released and were en route to Manilla since yesterday, Sunday.

“The remaining six crew members are also expected to return once their replacements arrive,” the company added. The news of their release was also confirmed by the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in a relevant statement.

The DFA said the contracts of the 11 Filipinos had officially expired, and their crewing agency had already replaced them with other third country sailors.

Nine sailors were scheduled to arrive home on Sunday, and two others would be flying back on March 13, the ministry added.

The tanker is believed to have been seized in retaliation for Empire Navigation’s cooperation with the United States last year in the seizure of Iranian oil it was transporting, and when the vessel was named Suez Rajan.

After being forced by US authorities to unload its Iranian crude oil in Texas, the ship returned to the Middle East under a new name, St. Nikolas.

Upon arriving in the waters off Oman, Iranian forces seized the vessel.

A young Greek cadet merchant seaman, who was among the crew, was released in January.