Iranian military operatives have seized two Greek oil tankers in the Persian Gulf on Friday. The Associated Press initially reported that the US Navy is “looking into” the reports. The tankers were boarded in international waters in the gulf, with the AP in follow-up saying that IRGC operatives now have control of the ships.
The IRGC has announced it is in possession of the seized vessels, with Bloomberg reporting, “The Guard’s announcement comes as tensions remain high between Iran and the West over stalled negotiations regarding its rapidly advancing nuclear program.” And more according to the AP:
The Guard issued a statement on its website, accusing the unnamed tankers of unspecified violations.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said Iranian authorities “violently took over” the two ships in an “act of piracy.”
Industry monitor Lloyd’s List maritime intelligence describes that its “sources confirmed that in two seemingly similar operations the suezmaxes Delta Poseidon (IMO: 9468671) and Prudent Warrior (IMO: 9753545), both under Greek flag, were approached by Iranian helicopters on Friday afternoon.”
“They were both boarded by military personnel and later escorted by naval vessels from international traffic lanes to Iranian waters a few miles off the coast,” the report continues.
#BREAKING A second Greek-flagged oil tanker, Prudent Warrior, has also been seized by the Iranian military, according to @LloydsList.
The seizure of the two vessels comes in response to Greece’s move to seize an Iranian tanker and letting the US confiscate its crude oil. pic.twitter.com/R2THAMo1d4
— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) May 27, 2022
Earlier in the day Tehran threated “punitive measures” after the United States seized a Russian flagged tanker transporting Iranian oil off Greece.
Iranian sources stated following the tanker seizure in the Mediterranean, “The Islamic Republic has decided to take punitive measures against Greece after it seized an Iranian tanker and let the US government confiscate its crude oil, Nour News, affiliated to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reports.”
Fresh off of the US targeting a series of companies involved in an Iran-linked oil smuggling network, the US has now seized an oil tanker near Greece, taking the Iranian oil within to be sent to the US.
The oil was on a Russian-operated ship, which had been singled out for US targeting in February. It was then called the Pegas. The company renamed the ship the Lana and was Russian flagged. Greece had impounded the Pegas and its Russian crew last month over the invasion of Ukraine, but ultimately released it.
Neither the US nor Russia is commenting. Greece says the US informed them the oil was Iranian, and that the US hired a different ship to take the oil to America. Iran has summoned the Greek charges d’affaires and called the incident a “clear example of piracy.”
The US accused the tanker of loading 700,000 Bbls of oil from Iran in August 2021. The tanker mostly sent oil to China.
Earlier in the week The Maritime Executive detailed that “The story of a shadowy Russian oil tanker took a new turn… as the U.S. Department of Justice seized the oil aboard the vessel and according to reports is in the process of transferring the oil to the United States on a chartered tanker.”
“The vessel was detained nearly seven weeks ago in Greece when authorities thought it was covered by the European Union sanctions on Russian assets, but later held for mechanical deficiencies while watchdog groups announced that it was actually smuggling sanctioned Iranian oil.”
The report continued: “The Aframax tanker arrived off Greece early in April with reports of a possible mechanical failure and indications that they were looking for assistance to make repairs to continue their voyage. When she anchored south of the Greek island of Evia the 115,520 dwt tanker was being identified as the Russian-flagged Pegas.” And the initial “assumption at the time was that it was laden with a Russian crude oil cargo,” according to the report.
The seizure of the tanker, and oil, comes amid tensions on the ongoing nuclear talks. Iran believes, and not unfairly, that the oil was just stolen from them, and the US position, while yet to be public, is that the oil is now theirs.
It’s not a great precedent, but generally Iran can’t do much about it, and the US is keen to have the oil.