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Iran Expects Return of Tanker's Oil After Greek Appeals Court Ruling

Iran wins court order for return of oil cargo aboard tanker off Greece
After nearly two months, a Russian turned Iranian tanker remains at the center of the dispute (Russian Embassy in Greece)

Published Jun 9, 2022 2:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Iranian officials are now saying that they expect the full return of the crude oil cargo from the tanker Lana after a Greek appeals court on Wednesday overturned a lower court’s order permitting the United States to seize the oil cargo. Iran’s ambassador to Greek visited the tanker and Tweeted a picture of himself standing on the bridge wing saying that “intensive consultations” were ongoing between the two countries to resolve the dispute.

Ambassador Ahmad Naderi announced online, “Following intensive follow-up, the Greek Court of Appeals will overturn the initial court ruling on the confiscation of Iranian oil …. the entire oil shipment will be returned.”

Greek officials confirmed to the Associated Press today that an appeals court in the port city of Halkida had reversed a lower court’s decision to allow the removal of the cargo. Details of the case and the court’s decision were not released, but it is understood that Iran had filed legal claims seeking the return of the tanker and its cargo.

 

 

The reports indicate that the United States was in contact with Greek officials, but people familiar with the Greek legal system are saying it is highly unlikely that the case could be overturned. One tanker, the Ice Energy, which was believed to have already completed a portion of a ship-to-ship transfer from the Lana had recently moved to the Piraeus anchor. However, a second tanker, Ice Victory, remains anchored near the Lana, along with several Greek tugboats.

The court’s decision came as Iran also filed a formal complaint at the International Maritime Organization over the detention of its tanker. Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development Ali Akbar Safaei spoke with the IMO’s Secretary-General Kitack Lim repeating Iran’s charges that the Greek government's action against the Iranian ship is contrary to the goals and positions of the International Maritime Organization. 

“Our ships and sailors have been under constant threat following harsh U.S. sanctions,” the Iranians reportedly told the IMO. “Therefore, we hope that IMO will pay special attention to this issue,” the Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization said citing what it called repeated harassment by the United States.

Iran, however, made no further mention of the two Greek tankers that it seized in retaliation. Both Greece and Iran have called the other’s actions piracy. After the news of the U.S. seizure order was reported, Iran said it would take “punitive measures,” against Greece and last weekend, Iran’s Supreme leader admitted the Greek tankers were taken after “our oil was stolen off the coast of Greece.” Greek officials for their part on Thursday said that they were treating the two incidents separately.

Iran’s ambassador in Athens told the media that the actions of a “third party” referring to the United States should not be permitted to take the relationship between Tehran and Athens “hostage.” He said they would continue to pursue all diplomatic channels to complete the return of the oil and protect the properties of the Islamic Republic.

The incident began in mid-April when a tanker reportedly sought refugee in a Greek anchorage after experiencing engine problems. It was initially identified as a Russian-flagged crude oil tanker named Pegas and Greece detained it due to the EU’s sanctions against Russian interests. The vessel, however, had separately been listed by the United States in the sanctions against the Iranian oil industry and an NGO group quickly identified that the vessel was transporting Iranian crude. The ship changed its name to Lana and then at the beginning of May switched to displaying the Iranian flag. 

Greece released the tanker under the Russian sanctions but detained it after a port state inspection identified numerous deficiencies. A Greek towing company also filed a financial claim against the vessel for an unpaid bill while the U.S. moved in the Greek courts to seize the cargo as a violation of U.S. and EU sanctions against Iran.