Iran Releases Vietnamese Tanker at Center of Incident with U.S. 

Iran releases Vietnamese tanker after reclaiming oil cargo
Sothys as the Eagle Tuscon when she grounded in the Mississippi River in 2009 (US Coast Guard Atlantic Area photo)

Published Nov 10, 2021 2:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

Iranian officials confirmed reports that the Vietnamese tanker Sothys that they had been detaining was released. Associated Press first reported that the tanker’s AIS data was showing it underway departing from the Iranian southern port of Bandar Abbas on November 9.

TankerTrackers is reporting that the vessel appeared to be headed into the Gulf of Oman. The tanker was traveling light and anchored south of the Strait of Hormuz with its AIS set to “waiting for instructions.” Iran said that it offloaded the oil on the vessel before permitting it to depart, which TankerTrackers valued at $50 million. 

The incident surfaced last week when U.S. officials denied reports that the U.S. had attempted to seize the tanker while in international waters in the Gulf of Oman. They were apparently responding to videos and reports from Iran that said it had seized the tanker to prevent it from falling into American hands. Iran accused the United States of attempting to “steal the oil” aboard the tanker.

Today at a ceremony in Iran, the Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Major General Hossein Salami celebrated their “victory over the Americans,” providing the Iranian version of the incident. He contended that the U.S. used helicopters and drones in an attempt to prevent the Iranian forces from boarding the tanker. He also said that the U.S. sent three warships in an attempt to prevent the tanker from proceeding into Iranian waters.

Pham Thu Hang, deputy spokeswoman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Vietnam expressed concern for the safety of the 26 members of the crew aboard the tanker. Vietnam had begun diplomatic outreach to Iran seeking the identity of the crewmembers and to facilitate the release of the vessel. On October 27, they reported that the captain of the vessel had spoken with their embassy reporting that the crew was in good health and being treated fairly.



TankerTrackers detailed the voyage of the Sothys reporting that it was surprised by the level of information that was available in this case. They tracked the ship-to-ship transfer of Iranian oil to the tanker in June. China subsequently refused the oil delivery from the Sothys in August because it came from a sanctioned vessel and then the Sothys had begun the voyage back to the Persian Gulf.

U.S. officials asserted that the U.S. Navy observed the Iranian action surrounding the tanker but had not attempted to seize the oil. The U.S. in the past has been successful in confiscating oil loaded aboard tankers to avoid sanctions.

Observers pointed out the Iranian regime’s use of the media for propaganda purposes. This week Iran also staged a large-scale war games exercise in the Persian Gulf. Experts point to the moves as possible posturing before the scheduled resumption of nuclear talks expected t the end of November in Vienna.