Iran Releases Two Greek Tankers Detained for Nearly Six Months

Iran releases Greek-owned tankers
Two Greek-flagged tankers had been held by Iran since May 2022 (Image courtesy Mehr News / CC BY 4.0)

Published Nov 16, 2022 2:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

Greek officials announced that they have secured the release of two tankers held by the Iranians for nearly six months in retaliation for an effort by the U.S. to seize an Iranian tanker in Greek waters. AIS signals from the tankers Prudent Warrior and Delta Poseidon confirm that both vessels departed Iran while around the same time the disputed Iranian tanker Lana also departed the anchorage at Piraeus.

Greece had been negotiating for months for the release of the two tankers while denying it was involved in a trade-off of the Iranian tanker for the two Greek-flagged vessels. The Lana, which changed to the Iranian flag in May 2022, had its cargo of crude returned in July and had been free to depart but remained until now in Greece. It had been previously rumored that Greece was close to an agreement with Iran before the deal was delayed reportedly by Iranian demands that Greece would not seek restitution.

The Greek Minister of Shipping and Island Policy, Yannis Plakiotakis, issued a brief statement confirming the release of the two tankers. “Today is a very pleasant day for our sailors, but also for Greece in general, since an unpleasant and particularly complex case came to an end, following systematic efforts by the Greek Government… I would also like to warmly thank the sailors of the ships for the patience and trust they showed us during all the difficult days that have passed, but also the ship-owning companies of the two ships, for our cooperation.”

The 150,000 dwt Prudent Warrior and the 157,000 dwt Delta Poseidon had both loaded cargos and were outbound from the Gulf when on May 27 the vessels were stormed by Iranian forces and directed into Iranian waters. They were moved to Bandar Abbas where they had remained while Iran’s supreme leader later admitted in a speech that they were being held in retaliation for Greece permitting the U.S. to seize the crude cargo aboard the Lana. Initially identifying as the Russian-flagged Pegas, the vessel had sought refuge in Greece after experiencing mechanical problems. Greece initially said the vessel was being investigated for EU sanction violations against Russia before it emerged that the cargo was Iranian crude and the vessel changed its flag to Iran. The Greek courts ultimately ordered the U.S. to return the crude that had been transferred off the vessel to another tanker that had been chartered to transport the oil to the United States.

After expecting the Greek tankers would be released in August, Iran later agreed that the shipping companies Polembros Shipping and Delta Tankers could conduct a crew change on both vessels in early October. The AIS signal from both vessels shows that they are now underway heading to the UAE.

Polembros reported that they had a crew of 24 Greek and Filipino crewmembers on the Prudent Warrior and that seven had been with the vessel since before it was detained while it had been possible to replace 17 crew. “We do hope that the discussions taking place on governmental and diplomatic level will bring this matter to an end, with the vessel and her crew finally being released,” Polembros said earlier this week.

Earlier today the 115,500 dwt Lana also got underway. Initial reports said it was heading to Istanbul, although its AIS signal now shows the vessel due in Beirut on November 19. It had been previously speculated that Iran was leaving the vessel in Greece fearing that the United States might attempt to seize it when it entered international waters.

Minister Plakiotakis said today's positive development is yet another confirmation of Greece’s commitment to stand with its sailors and ships in an effort to serve and protect the interests of Greek shipping and its sailors in the best possible way.