Fresh off of the US targeting a series of companies involved in an Iran-linked oil smuggling network, the US has now seized an oil tanker near Greece, taking the Iranian oil within to be sent to the US.
The oil was on a Russian-operated ship, which had been singled out for US targeting in February. It was then called the Pegas. The company renamed the ship the Lana and was Russian flagged. Greece had impounded the Pegas and its Russian crew last month over the invasion of Ukraine, but ultimately released it.
Neither the US nor Russia is commenting. Greece says the US informed them the oil was Iranian, and that the US hired a different ship to take the oil to America. Iran has summoned the Greek charges d’affaires and called the incident a "clear example of piracy."
The US accused the tanker of loading 700,000 Bbls of oil from Iran in August 2021. The tanker mostly sent oil to China.
Earlier in the week The Maritime Executive detailed that "The story of a shadowy Russian oil tanker took a new turn… as the U.S. Department of Justice seized the oil aboard the vessel and according to reports is in the process of transferring the oil to the United States on a chartered tanker."
"The vessel was detained nearly seven weeks ago in Greece when authorities thought it was covered by the European Union sanctions on Russian assets, but later held for mechanical deficiencies while watchdog groups announced that it was actually smuggling sanctioned Iranian oil."
The report continued: "The Aframax tanker arrived off Greece early in April with reports of a possible mechanical failure and indications that they were looking for assistance to make repairs to continue their voyage. When she anchored south of the Greek island of Evia the 115,520 dwt tanker was being identified as the Russian-flagged Pegas." And the initial "assumption at the time was that it was laden with a Russian crude oil cargo," according to the report.
The seizure of the tanker, and oil, comes amid tensions on the ongoing nuclear talks. Iran believes, and not unfairly, that the oil was just stolen from them, and the US position, while yet to be public, is that the oil is now theirs.
It’s not a great precedent, but generally Iran can’t do much about it, and the US is keen to have the oil.