Oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz
Oil tanker in Strait of HormuziStock

The crew of a tanker seized by Iran's navy this week in a row with the United States is safe, the vessel's Greek owners said on Sunday, according to the AFP news agency.

Empire Navigation said in a statement that an associate had contacted Iranian authorities and reported that "all the crew members on board the St. Nikolas are safe and in good health."

The company added that it had not been itself able to directly contact the 19-man crew of the Marshall Islands-flagged ship, which is anchored in the vicinity of the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

18 Filipinos and a Greek are on board.

Iran said it seized the ship off Oman on Thursday to retaliate for the "theft" of its oil from the same tanker -- which at the time was called the Suez Rajan -- last year by the United States.

The United States condemned what it called an "unlawful seizure" and demanded Iran "immediately release the ship and its crew".

The Persian Gulf has been an area of tensions between the US and Iran. The US announced this past July it would be beefing up its use of fighter jets around the strategic Strait of Hormuz to protect ships from Iranian seizures.

Later, the Pentagon said that the United States will send additional F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, along with a warship to the Middle East.

The US decided to beef up its presence in the region after Iran tried to seize two oil tankers near the strait, opening fire on one of them.

The Islamic Republic has threatened more than once to close the Strait of Hormuz, with the United States warning Iran in response that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a "red line" -- grounds for US military action.