Iran Reports Greece Released Disputed Tanker and Returning Cargo
The Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization released a statement saying that Greece has released the disputed crude oil tanker following an appellate court’s order overturning a seizure order. Greek officials did not acknowledge the Iranian reports but repeated their calls for Iran to release two Greek-flagged crude oil tankers it has been holding since late May.
The crude oil tanker now known as Lana became the focus of an international incident between Greece, Iran, and the United States with Russia and the European Union also briefly involved. It started in mid-April when Greece announced it was detaining the Russian-flagged tanker Pegas after it anchored near the island of Evia reporting engine troubles. Greece said it suspected the vessel was in violation of EU sanctions against Russian assets but later reported they would be releasing the tanker because its owner did not appear to be among the sanctioned companies. The tanker however was also being detained after a port state inspection found several deficiencies.
U.S. authorities had previously sanctioned the 115,000 dwt tanker reporting it had violated sanctions against the Iranian oil trade. On that basis, the U.S. went to court in Greece and won an order seizing the oil.
"With the swift and authoritative action of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Greece finally ordered the return of the cargo to its owner, and the Greek government issued the relevant order, and now we are witnessing the lifting of the seizure of the ship and the return of the cargo to its owner,” the PMO said in a statement that has also been widely carried by Iranian media.
The tanker in May had reported a name change to Lana and later began displaying the Iranian flag reporting it was registered in Iran, not Russia. It is unclear if the transfer was made due to the sanctions again Russian interests or to create the incident with the United States. Iran then accused Greece of piracy for seizing its ship and cargo and filed a complaint with the IMO.
AIS data for the Lana shows that the vessel remains at anchor in Greece as of today, June 14, but it now says “waiting for orders.” Two Greek anchor handling tugs also appear to have moved away from the vessel, although another tanker remains anchored nearby. Reported had indicated that the U.S. had hired tankers and had at least partially completed a ship-to-ship transfer removing some crude from the tanker. Reports have not indicated what would happen with the oil that was removed or if there would be an attempt to reload the Iranian tanker.
While Greek officials had said publicly that they viewed the two incidents independently, they quickly reiterated their calls today for the release of the crude oil tankers Delta Poseidon and Prudent Warrior that were stopped in the Persian Gulf in a retaliatory action by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The vessels remain anchored in Iran with their crews aboard. Previously the shipping companies reported that they had contact with the crews and that they were being treated fairly. Iran initially said the vessels were being held for unspecified violations but never detailed its charges.