ATHENS (Reuters): Iran has agreed to release the crews of two Greek tankers it seized in May in the Gulf, in response to the confiscation of oil by the United States from an Iranian-flagged tanker in Greece, the Greek union of commercial ships’ seafarers said.
The case has strained relations between Athens and Tehran as tensions grow between Iran and the United States.
The tankers’ crew will be replaced, allowing their return to their countries of origin soon, the union said in a statement on its website on Sunday.
It was not clear whether the two Greek tankers, the MT Prudent Warrior and Delta Poseidon, would be released, it added.
Iran’s foreign ministry could not confirm the information.
“We have no confirmation at this moment about a release,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser KanaanI said, adding that he hoped “there would be positive developments in the future.”
A Greek shipping ministry source said on Monday that “a very serious effort has been under way for the return of the Greek crews the soonest possible,” without elaborating.
The Iranian-flagged tanker Lana, formerly Pegas, was seized by Greece in April and was held for months. The United States had confiscated part of its oil cargo due to sanctions.
The removal of oil from the Lana prompted Iranian forces in May to seize two Greek tankers in the Middle East Gulf and sail them back to Iran after Tehran warned of “punitive action” against Athens.
Lana, which had engine problems, was officially released in July. Anchored off Piraeus since then, it has retrieved the oil cargo that the United States had confiscated and is expected to sail back to Iran.
Polembros shipping, manager of the MT Prudent Warrior, said in a statement on Monday that the crew communicates with their families almost on a daily basis and “they are in good health and are treated well.”
It added that the company is making every effort for their release.
“We have been innocent victims caught in the midst of political confrontations,” it said in the statement. “We hope that the recent developments are the pathway to the release of our vessel and her crew.”