Tanker seized by Iran last month released into Gulf of Oman

The seizure of the 'Sothys' and the transfer of its cargo is allegedly part of a convoluted plot to resell Iranian oil from a sanctioned vessel to China.

A boat of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) sails, at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran August 22, 2019. (photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS)
A boat of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) sails, at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran August 22, 2019.
(photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS)

The Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker Sothys left Iranian waters on Tuesday, a month after it was seized by Iran, according to marine traffic tracking groups and Iranian media.

An Iranian official at Bandar Abbas Port told Reuters the tanker left Iran late on Tuesday "after its oil cargo was unloaded," giving no details on the crew. State media outlet Iranian Republic News Agency reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced that the release was done in accordance with a court order.

The Sothys transferred its cargo to an Iranian vessel called the Rima in a ship-to-ship transfer, TankerTrackers.com tweeted.

As of Wednesday at noon, the vessel was anchored in the western part of the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz but had previously been traveling south, with the alleged destination registered as Dubai, according to the database of the shipping tracking and maritime intelligence company MarineTraffic.

According to TankerTrackers.com, the Sothys was involved in a failed convoluted plan to resell oil. Its cargo originally came from the Oman Pride, a sanctioned vessel that had been used to transfer oil from the Winsome, which had allegedly been hijacked by the IRGC from Oman in June. The Oman Pride transferred 700,000 barrels of Iranian oil in June to Sothys, which attempted to sell the cargo to China. It was rejected over the Oman Pride sanctions, and to again attempt the sale, the cargo was transferred to Rima, a tanker originally called Gulf Sky which was hijacked in July 2020.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards said a week ago that they thwarted an attempt by the United States to detain a tanker carrying Iranian oil in the Sea of Oman. The US denied this, saying that Iranian forces had seized the Sothys in late October.

Last week, Iran released a video that purportedly showed IRGC naval forces chasing off the US Navy using fast craft and helicopters.

IRGC siezes ship near Bu Musa Island, Iran (credit: Wikimedia Commons)IRGC siezes ship near Bu Musa Island, Iran (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

"I've seen the Iranian claims – they are absolutely totally false and untrue ... it's a bogus claim," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the time.

"The only seizing that was done was by Iran," he said.

The foreign ministries of Iran and Vietnam were not immediately available to Reuters for comment on the departure of the Sothys.

Tzvi Joffre and Seth Frantzman contributed to this report.