Iran officially confirmed confiscating two Greek tankers in the Persian Gulf last month in retaliation for Greece’s role in the US seizure of Iranian crude oil from a Russian-flagged tanker.
The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, acknowledged the move on Saturday, saying Iran was merely taking back “stolen property”.
Greece earlier described the acts as equivalent to piracy and called for a global mobilisation to free the ships and their crews, but Khamenei dismissed the accusations. “Who is the pirate? You stole our oil, we took it back from you. Taking back something that had been stolen is not an act of theft,” he said.
As a retaliatory action to Athens’ seizure of the aframax tanker Lana, formerly known as Pegas, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) seized two Greek-flagged suezmax tankers, Delta Poseidon and Prudent Warrior, and warned that further ships could be targeted if “Greece continued its games”.
Greece’s shipping ministry strongly advised its shipowners to avoid Iranian territorial waters when crossing the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.
Meanwhile, the crew onboard the two seized tankers are said to be in good physical and mental health conditions, and phone talks with their families are being arranged and facilitated. “The captains of both ships confirmed that all crewmembers are mentally and physically well, that the military forces had acted toward them appropriately, and that no complaints had been reported,” Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation said in its latest statement.
Monitoring service TankerTrackers.com said in a Twitter post on Friday that the Delta Poseidon had been relocated from Larak Island to a spot off the northeast coast of Qeshm Island, and that the two tankers are now separated by merely a nautical mile. “We expect them to remain here for the duration of their captivity by the IRGC.”
In Greece today, Ioannis Plakiotakis, the nation’s shipping minister, hit out at Iran’s actions. Speaking as a keynote at Capital Link’s Posidonia conference, Plakiotakis described the tanker takings as “illegal acts contrary to International law”. Tehran’s decision to take the two ships showed “disrespect” to the world community, the minister said, adding that the consequences for world shipping and world trade will be very serious.