On 30 May, Greek environmental groups condemned the government in Athens for causing an oil spill during the transfer of Iranian oil from a tanker seized in cooperation with the US.
These groups published images of the pollution in the Greek port of Karistos, blaming the “non-standard transfer of oil” and saying all parties involved neglected the environmental consequences.
The Greek Environmental Protection Association remarked: “Even if only one-thousandth of a shipment leaks during the transfer process at sea, the environmental damage will be incalculable.”
Washington seized a cargo of Iranian oil held aboard a Russian-operated oil tanker one day after it was confiscated by Greek authorities, before shipping it to a US port aboard another vessel.
Reuters quoted a Greek Transport Ministry source saying that the US Justice Department had “informed Greece that the cargo on the vessel is Iranian oil and has been transferred to another ship that was contracted by the US,” without giving further details.
Tehran condemned the theft of their resources, calling it “maritime piracy.”
In retaliation, on 27 May naval forces from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized two ships sailing under the Greek flag in the Persian Gulf.
A day later, Iranian officials confirmed that the crew had not been arrested and were in good health.
Despite this, Greece claimed that an Iranian navy helicopter landed on the vessels in international waters and proceeded to “take the crew hostage,” calling it a violation of international law.
Iran’s Ports and Maritime Authority said that the vessel, impounded by Greece, had to stop in their waters due to bad weather conditions and technical problems. However, the ship did not receive assistance and was instead seized.
This is not the first time the US has illegally seized Iranian oil in international waters.
In August 2020, the US seized four Iranian tankers headed for Venezuela in the Strait of Hormuz. According to reports, the Iranian oil was then sold for over $40 million.
This latest oil seizure comes as sanctions-removal talks in Vienna remain stalled due to Washington’s lack of willingness to meet Tehran’s condition on the removal of the IRGC from the terrorist list.