Iran has been charged with piracy after seizing two Greek tankers in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in revenge for the capture of a Russian-flagged tanker loaded with Iranian oil last month.
Using a helicopter and two speedboats, Iranian forces boarded the Prudent Warrior in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday afternoon.
The 24 Greeks and Filipinos on board found themselves in the Hollywood blockbuster-style scenes as their boat was commandeered.
They also took the Delta Poseidon, but insisted it was because they had “violated” maritime rules.
This signaled yet another disaster for the oil market as oil prices skyrocketed in recent months.
Prudent Warrioer had carried a cargo of oil for the United States, while Delta Poseidon’s goods were destined for the motor oil refinery at Agioi Theodoroi.
The confirmation of the seizure comes as talks between Tehran and world powers over Iran’s nuclear ambitions have stalled in recent months, increasing tensions in the Middle East.
George Vakirtzis, managing director of Polembros Shipping, which operates the Prudent Warrior, said the vessel was seized in international waters before being directed to the Iranian coast by authorities.
Vakirtzis said his ship was bound for the United States with crude loaded in Basra in Iraq.
“We lost all communication around 2am local time and tried to speak to the ship several times with no response. We asked other ships in the same area to give us the position of the ship. They told us that a helicopter and two speedboats had reached our ship,” he told the Financial Times.
“It’s a seizure and a diplomatic situation and we’re in the middle,” he added.
Delta Tankers, the operator of the Delta Poseidon, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Greek Foreign Ministry described the seizure of the tankers as “acts of piracy”.
Last month, Athens seized the Russian-flagged tanker Pegas – later renamed Lana – for transporting sanctioned Iranian crude.
U.S. officials reportedly this week took Iranian crude from the tanker.
Iran summoned the Greek charge d’affaires to Tehran on Wednesday to condemn what it called “piracy” of Athens.
On Friday, Tehran also called on Switzerland – which manages the American interests section in Iran – to complain about the seizure of the Iranian tanker and convey “strong objections” to the Americans.
In 2019, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker shortly after the UK stopped an Iranian ship in Gibraltar that was carrying crude to Syria.
The British-flagged Stena Impero was held in Iran for two months before being released. The Strait of Hormuz, the strategic narrow waterway separating Iran from the Gulf states, is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes for crude.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, about a third of all oil cargo transported by sea passes through it every day.
Talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, have stalled.
Western powers want Iran to radically overturn its nuclear program in exchange for the United States rejoining the pact and lifting a series of sanctions against its economy, including oil exports.
Western diplomats say the main obstacle is the designation of the Revolutionary Guards and its Al-Quds forces as terrorists.
Iran wants the designation lifted. He also made clear that he would continue to support militias across the Middle East.