Greece impounding Iranian-flagged oil tanker
Under US pressure, Greece is illegally seizing an Iranian-flagged oil tanker although US sanctions do not apply in EU countries.
Greek authorities have an oil tanker flying the Iranian flag impounded in one of its ports since last April 20, sources reported to Al Mayadeen.
According to BIRN news agency, the 115,500-deadweight tonnage tanker is originally Russian-flagged but has changed its flag to an Iranian one to avoid EU and US sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
The news agency quoted Claire Jungman, Chief of Staff of the US advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), as saying that the tanker, renamed Lana, “is now flying an Iranian flag while anchored in Greek waters”.
“Changing the Russian flag for an Iranian one may be a Russian manoeuver to facilitate Russians exports," claimed Miltiadis Sarigiannidis, Associate Law Professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
US State Department sanctions Russian maritime-related companies
The Pegas oil tanker, with 19 Russian crew members on board, was detected by Greek authorities on April 8 and seized under anti-Russian EU sanctions.
The tanker was then released as its new owner, TransMorFlot LLC, a Russian maritime shipping company, was not included in the sanctions list, BIRN indicated.
Nevertheless, on May 8, the US State Department imposed new sanctions that targeted Russian maritime-related companies, including TransMorFlot LLC, which led to blocking the company's 16 vessels.
US Sanctions do not apply in Greece
In the same context, BIRN quoted a lawyer dealing with maritime law as saying that "The sanctions imposed by the US on the Russian shipping company do not apply in Greece."
“However, sanctions are indirectly imposed,” the lawyer added.
"Companies providing services to the vessel, including shipping insurance companies covering liabilities including fuel leaks, shipwrecks and personal injuries, have in these complex circumstances decided to stop trading with the ship, to avoid to be included in the US black list. As a result, the ship can do nothing," the news agency explained.
3 million barrels of Iranian oil in 2021
It is noteworthy that under former US President Donald Trump’s administration, the US imposed sanctions on Iranian oil sales in 2018, unlike the EU. Although the EU has not imposed sanctions on Iranian oil, no European shipping company dares to transport Iranian crude oil, fearing US retaliation.
UANI noted that on August 19, 2021, Pegas loaded around 700,000 barrels of crude oil from Iran's Sirri Island. It also transported over three million barrels of Iranian oil in 2021.
Greek media outlet Kathimerini pointed out that the US asked Greek judicial authorities to order an investigation and the seizure of the tanker.
Considering that there are no sanctions imposed on Iranian oil by the European Union, all eyes are on Greece's decision regarding the originally Russian-flagged tanker.