Iran Intercepts Two Greek Tankers in Retaliatory Action
In an apparent retaliatory action against Greece for permitting the U.S. seizure of a cargo of Iranian crude, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard boarded and is detaining two Greek flagged crude oil tankers that were departing the Persian Gulf. Reports indicate that the tankers were both intercepted by helicopters and Iranian gunboats in international waters and diverted towards Iran. Both vessels have gone dark with the reports coming from other vessels nearby in the Gulf and statements from the Iranian news agencies and the Greek Foreign Ministry.
The actions came hours after the Iranians issued a threat saying they planned to take “punitive actions against Greece,” following the seizure of an "Iranian" tanker by the Greek government. Yesterday, Iran reported that it had summoned Greek diplomates to receive an official protest, while in a public statement they called Greece’s actions “an act of piracy,” while demanding that Greece abide by international maritime law. The Iranian news agencies are also reporting that the Foreign Ministry delivered a protest to the United States via the Swiss today.
The Greek Foreign Ministry responded quickly and strongly also calling today’s actions “equivalent to acts of piracy. The Secretary-General strongly condemned the actions by the Iranians, saying they were contrary to fundamental rules of international law and international navigation, and called for the immediate release of the ships and their crews.
In the statement released by the Greek Ministry, they said, “Earlier today, a helicopter of the Iranian navy boarded the Greek-flagged ship Delta Poseidon which was sailing in international waters (22 nautical miles off the coast of Iran) in the Gulf. Armed men then captured the ship's crew, including two Greek citizens. A similar incident was reported to have occurred on another Greek-flagged ship, aboard seven Greek nationals, off the Iranian coast.”
The two tankers are being identified as the Prudent Warrior, a 150,000 dwt Greek flagged crude oil tanker operated by Polembros Shipping, and the Delta Poseidon a 157,280 dwt tanker operated by Delta Tankers. Both vessels had loaded cargos at Basrah, Iraq, and were outbound in the Persian Gulf. The Prudent Warrior was reportedly heading to the United States while the Delta tanker was heading to Greece.
Polembros Shipping posted a brief statement confirming that its ship had been “intercepted by an Iranian team.” They reported that the tanker had turned off its AIS signal and that it was not possible to contact the vessel. They were responding to information relayed from other vessels sailing in the vicinity.
The Iranians apparently first approached the Prudent Warrior and approximately 90 minutes later the Delta Poseidon, based on when each vessel stopped transmitting their positions. One vessel was reported to be near Assuluyeh and the other near Bandar Lengeh. Iranian warships directed each vessel toward shore. Monitoring services are reporting that neither vessel issued a distress call.
Polembros, said that the vessel has a crew of 24 onboard and it believes the tanker was anchored approximately 11 miles offshore. The Delta Poseidon reportedly has a crew of 25 aboard.
The Iranian Guard issued a statement saying that two Greek tankers had been detained due to “violations” in the Persian Gulf. In recent weeks, the Iranians had also reported detaining several smaller unnamed vessels accusing them of smuggling oil in the Persian Gulf.