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Iran Complains To International Maritime Organization About Seizure Of Fuel Tankers

VENEZUELA -- The Iranian oil tanker Fortune is anchored at the dock of El Palito refinery near Puerto Cabello, May 25, 2020

The Deputy Head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization (IPMO), Jalil Eslami, said on Wednesday that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has promised to investigate the seizure of several tankers carrying Iranian fuel to Venezuela.

"We have on several occasions announced our protest to the seizure of tankers carrying Iranian fuel to IMO and several times talked to the Secretary General of the IMO regarding the seizure of the tankers carrying Iranian fuel to Venezuela but this is for the first time that they have promised to investigate the matter," Eslami said.

Earlier this month, the United States seized four vessels carrying gasoline from Iran to Venezuela following federal prosecutors’ calls in July for the tankers to be seized.

The news of the action taken by the United States was initially met with shock in Iran and elsewhere, as Iran had shipped gasoline to Venezuela at least twice before over the past few months.

Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said that the cargo of the tankers, gasoline, belonged to Venezuela, not Iran.

The seizure of the four ships appears to be part of the United States' efforts to pressure Iran back to the negotiating table over its controversial nuclear and missile development programs, its destabilizing activities in the region and its human rights violations.

In response, Iranian officials have threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to foreign vessels, and in several cases, detained foreign ships and tankers to be released afterwards.

In July 2019, allegedly in retaliation for Britain's detaining of its supertanker at Gibraltar in early July, Iran's military seized a U.K.-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian authorities who released the tanker later cited numerous justifications for the seizure, claiming that the British tanker collided with an Iranian fishing vessel, though they did not produce any evidence to convince the international community that Iran’s actions were justified and legal.