Recently unsealed court documents have officially confirmed that the U.S. government seized nearly one million barrels of Iranian crude oil from the Greek-managed tanker M/T Suez Rajan.
The U.S. State Department announced on Friday that the government had taken possession of the vessel along with its cargo, which amounted to 980,000 barrels of crude oil. The claim was that the ship was transporting Iranian oil to China, violating U.S. sanctions against Tehran. It was also stated that the U.S. government had obtained a warrant for the seizure earlier in the year.
Around the time of the seizure, the vessel's owner, Suez Rajan Ltd, pleaded guilty to sanctions violations and incurred a fine of $2.5 million. Following this, the Greek vessel's operator, Empire Navigation, agreed to cooperate with U.S. authorities and directed the ship, located in Southeast Asia at the time, to transport its load of oil to the United States.
On July 20, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy, Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, issued a warning, stating that any oil company unloading hundreds of thousands of barrels of seized Iranian oil from the Greek tanker off the coast of Texas would be held accountable. This came on the anniversary of Iran's confiscation of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in 2019, following Britain's seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar.
Shortly after the M/T Suez Rajan's seizure, Iran's Navy captured a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Sea of Oman. The tanker was transporting Kuwaiti oil for the second-largest U.S. energy company and had been involved in a maritime accident with an Iranian fishing vessel, resulting in injuries and missing crew members. After the collision, the oil tanker attempted to flee the scene in a serious breach of international laws and regulations governing the treatment of sick or injured seamen.
After months of sitting off the Texas coast, the Suez Rajan initiated a lengthy ship-to-ship oil transfer to another tanker, the MR Euphrates, on August 21. The recently disclosed court documents confirm that the U.S. government subsequently took control of the oil.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kan’ani, emphasized during a press conference on August 21 that Iran would not stay silent about any infringement on the rights of its nation. He stated that Iran would respond appropriately and take action against violators, characterizing any measures to seize Iranian oil as blatant acts of piracy.
It's worth noting that the United States and its allies have been confiscating Iranian oil shipments since the previous U.S. administration, under Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.