An Iranian-flagged tanker on Friday delivered a shipment of oil to Syria that the United States had previously confiscated around Greece, ending months of uncertainty over the cargo, a ship tracker said.
The seizure of the Lana, formerly the Pegas, prompted Iranian forces in May to seize two Greek tankers in the Middle East Gulf which were released on November 16.
Satellite tracking data showed that the Lana had unloaded the cargo of around 700,000 barrels in the Syrian port of Banias, said Claire Jungman, chief of staff at the US advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which monitors Iran-linked tanker traffic through ships and satellite tracking.
Jungman told Reuters that Iran’s deliveries to Damascus “are seen as a way to strengthen the country’s regional position and are also a major part of the regime’s survival strategy.”
The Port of Banias did not respond to a phone call outside normal office hours.
The Lana’s last reported position on Nov. 20 was anchored off the coast of Syria, according to ship tracking on Eikon.
Syria is experiencing severe fuel rationing in response to shortages, leading to continued cuts in the electricity and telecommunications sectors.
Syrian imports from Iran vary from month to month. According to UANI analysis, Syria received 1.39 million barrels of shipments from Iran in November, compared to 3.5 million barrels in October and 3.7 million barrels in September.
The United States had leased a tanker in April to seize the oil aboard the Lana, which was anchored off Greece.
The oil was then partially removed and placed on board the tanker Ice Energy, which had been chartered by Washington and was due to travel to the United States before the Greek Supreme Court ruled that the cargo should be returned to Iran.
For more than two months, the Lana remained under arrest off the Greek island of Evia. He was towed to Piraeus following court orders authorizing his release.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Maya Gebeily and Timour Azhari in Beirut Editing by Mark Potter)