Iran Says Tanker is Heading Home with Cargo Returned from US Seizure
Iranian officials are reporting that they have recalled the tanker Lana and that she will shortly depart for Iran now that her cargo of crude oil has been returned. The country’s political leaders are celebrating the apparent victory over the United States, which had spent much of the past three months first seizing and then trying to protect the seizure of the oil under violations of international sanctions on the Iranian oil industry.
Late on August 14, the ship-to-ship transfer of nearly 60,000 tons of crude back to the Lana was apparently completed. The tankers Lana and Ice Energy had been alongside each other in the Piraeus anchorage since Thursday. The Lana repositioned in the anchorage late on August 14 and then overnight, the Ice Energy departed Greece. The vessel’s AIS signal is showing that she is currently sailing to Gibraltar where she expects to arrive on August 20.
Late last week, the independent watchdog group UANI (United Against Nuclear Iran) alerted that the return of the oil had begun after the Greek courts ruled against the United States. The courts had previously confirmed the seizure of the oil cargo. The group reported that the transfer was likely to be completed over the weekend.
“The operation involving transfer of Iran’s stolen oil to the Lana vessel is underway in Greece’s waters, and the vessel will soon head to the country (Iran) with its complete cargo of oil,” Iran’s Embassy in Greece said in a Tweet on Friday.
U.S. officials have remained mostly silent on the case and any future steps they might take. They simply said they respected the Greek courts. They had appealed the court’s ruling. In addition, the operator of the Ice Energy told the Greek courts the U.S. was threatening sanctions and a breach of contract action if they returned the oil to the Lana. The Ice Energy and a second tanker were contracted by the U.S. in May to offload the cargo and transport it to Texas. The Ice Energy, however, was the only one to complete the ship-to-ship transfer before Iran was able to block the action in the Greek courts.
UANI reported early in the incident that the cargo has been loaded in 2021 on the tanker which at that point was identifying as the Russian-registered Pegas. They believed it was in search of a buyer in the Mediterranean in April 2022 when the vessel reported mechanical troubles and took refuge at a Greek anchorage.
The Greek court according to reports from Reuters conditioned the ship-to-ship transfer of the crude oil back to the tanker on the vessel first completing its mechanical repairs. The tanker was towed to the Piraeus anchorage at the beginning of July and reportedly undertook sea trials in early August to confirm its seaworthiness. She had previously been detained after numerous deficiencies were identified in a port state inspection in April.
Security analysts have speculated that Iran would release two Greek-owned tankers that it seized in retaliation as soon as the oil was back aboard the Lana.