Greek diplomats are reportedly disappointed that they have been unable to secure the release of two laden tankers Iran detained in May 2022 in retaliation for Greece’s cooperation with the United States in ordering the seizure of an Iranian oil cargo. Reports from the Greek media are suggesting after two weeks of diplomatic outreach Greece had been expecting the release of the Prudent Warrior and Delta Poseidon this week.
Reports indicate that a crisis manager from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been in Bandar Abbas, where the two tankers are being held, for the past two weeks seeking the release of the vessels and their crew. The Vice Captain of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Antonis Doumanis, reportedly also flew to Bandar Abbas on Wednesday believing that the release of the tankers was imminent.
It was widely believed that Iran would release the tankers once the return of the oil transferred off the tanker Lana was completed in the Piraeus anchorage. In June, the United States had completed the transfer of nearly 60,000 tons of crude to a chartered tanker, the Ice Energy, that was contracted to deliver the oil to Texas. A second tanker was preparing for a ship-to-ship transfer of the remaining oil but it did not begin after Iran was successful at overturning the seizure in the Greek courts. The U.S. lost an appeal in the Greek courts and an effort by the owner of the Ice Energy to intervene was also rejected by the Greek courts.
The ship-to-ship return of the oil was completed on August 14 and the Ice Energy departed Greece. Iranian sources reported that the Lana was expected to return to Iran departing Greece in the coming days. Nearly three weeks later, the Lana remains in the Piraeus anchorage with rumors that the vessel is again experiencing mechanical problems. The incident began in April when the tanker, then identifying as the Pegas registered in Russia, sought refuge in Greece after breaking down in the Mediterranean. The tanker was reportedly in search of a buyer and a port to offload the Iranian crude that was loaded in the summer of 2021.
In a report first carried by the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Iranian negotiators are reportedly placing additional conditions on the release of the two Greek-owned tankers. They are reportedly demanding an agreement that Greece will not take legal actions and seek compensation for taking the two tankers hostage. The reports also mention a “national agreement,” as well as the condition that the Lana depart into international waters.
Tugs are reportedly reluctant to assist in taking the Lana under tow fearing possible sanctions from the Americans for assisting a vessel that has been listed by the U.S. since early 2022 for its involvement with the Iranian oil trade. The U.S. reportedly also threatened the owner of the Ice Energy with a breach of contract and sanction violations if they offloaded the oil back to the Lana.
Nearly 50 mostly Greek and Filipino crewmembers remain caught in the political limbo between Greece and Iran. They have been held aboard their ships for three months with limited contact with their families and employers.