The proceeds from the sale of four seized cargoes of Iranian gasoline could go to support “American victims of state terrorism,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press briefing Friday. The funding would go into the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which was originally founded to support the victims of the 1979-81 U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.

The four Liberian-flagged tankers carrying the fuel are now headed for Houston, according to a social media message posted by President Donald Trump. As the seizure action applies solely to the cargo, the privately-owned ships are expected to be released after delivery.

The vessels in question were identified as the Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna. All are operated by two Piraeus-based ship managers (or were, as the Pandi is now listed as broken up). According to Reuters, their owners agreed to voluntarily transfer the shipper’s cargo into American custody. The petroleum industries of Venezuela and Iran are both subject to stringent American sanctions, and in recent months the United States has taken a hard line with owners and flag states about ships carrying cargoes in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Tehran has denied that the cargoes have any connection to Iran. “Sadly for them, stolen booty wasn’t Iran’s. Fuel was sold F.O.B. Persian Gulf. Ship and flag weren’t ours either,” wrote Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in a social media message.

The seizure occured shortly before the Trump administration lost a bid to convince the UN Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran, which will sunset in mid-October. Zarif suggested that the timing of the interdiction was related. “Hollow, cheap propaganda doesn’t deflect from miserable failure of US diplomatic malpractice at UN,” he wrote.

According to Reuters, the Iranian military’s boarding of the tanker Wila in the Gulf of Oman last week was in retaliation for a shipowner’s decision to transfer Iranian fuel cargoes to U.S. custody. The Wila’s ship manager shares a Piraeus address with the manager of the Bering and the Pandi.

Source » maritime-executive