(Photo credit: MENA Affairs)
On 28 May, Iranian officials confirmed that the crew on board the two Greek-flagged tankers that were seized on 27 May have not been detained and are in good health.
Iran’s Ports and Maritime Authority said that the crew were in good health, and have been provided with services while on board, in accordance with international law.
Greece claimed on 26 May 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.
The seizure of the ships by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) came in retaliation for the coordinated theft of a shipment of Iranian oil by Greece and the US.
This illegitimate seizure was confirmed by a separate western source familiar with the matter, who remarked that “the cargo was transferred onto the Liberia-flagged tanker Ice Energy, which is operated by Greek shipping company Dynacom.”
The oil tanker, which had been sailing under the Russian flag since 8 April, was found sailing under the Iranian flag with 19 Russian crew members on board near the coast of the southern island of Evia inside Greek maritime territory.
On 25 May, Iran issued a formal protest to the government of Greece over the detention of the Iranian-flagged vessel, calling it “maritime piracy.”
On the same day, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Greek embassy chargé d’affaires in Tehran, explicitly condemning the seizure of the tanker and laying the responsibility on the Greek government, for engaging in “maritime piracy” with the US.
Iran’s Ports and Maritime Authority said that the vessel had to stop in Greek waters due to bad weather conditions and technical problems. However, the ship did not receive assistance and was instead seized by the Greek government.
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 Straits of Hormuz. According to reports, the Iranian oil was then sold for over $40 million.