Suez Rajan oil cargo finally being unloaded

The Iran-linked oil cargo that has been sitting in seized crude oil tanker Suez Rajan (IMO 9524475) in a Houston anchorage near Galveston, Texas for more than two months was finally being unloaded on Sunday August 20th.

The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel had been anchored since May 30th, unable to unload because no private commercial company wanted to deal with the possible implications of so doing. Iran has threatened retaliation against any company unloading Iranian oil from the seized tanker. Any such action would likely take place near the Strait of Hormuz, through which a significant proportion of the world’s crude oil passes.

However, at the weekend the Liberia-flagged tanker MR Euphrates (IMO 9421324) was seen lined up next to Suez Rajan, ready to begin a ship-to-ship (STS) transfer, reported Reuters, citing data from Refinitiv Eikon. The MR Euphrates shares the same manager as Suez Rajan – Greece-based Empire Navigation Inc, and the same P&I insurer.

Because the Suez Rajan is too large to enter the port directly, its cargo requires lightering to smaller vessels, which can then enter the port and transfer the crude oil to a refinery. The oil on the 800,000 barrel Suez Rajan has an estimated market value of $56m.

Iowan Republican US Senator Joni Ernst said on Sunday that “finally, after months of delay, the Biden administration has listened to my bipartisan call for action and signalled to Iran that the US will not be complacent in the face of Iranian threats”.

The oil had taken on an additional political and economic aspect because US seizures of Iranian oil contribute money to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which compensates victims of attacks. It has been estimated that the fund was running low on cash, and that it might be unable to pay nearly 16,000 Americans the funds that they had been expecting next year.

In February, 2011-built, Marshall Islands-flagged, 81,282 gt Suez Rajan was owned by Fleetscape Suez Rajan LLC care of manager Empire Navigation of Athens, Greece. It was entered with UK Club on behalf of Fleetscape Suez Rajan LLC.

As of August 20th the vessel was listed as owned by Suez Rajan Ltd care of Empire Navigation. It remains entered with UK Club.

2008-built, Liberia-flagged, 30,400 gt MR Euphrates is owned by Euphrates Maritime Ltd care of manager Empire Navigation of Athens, Greece. It is entered with UK Club on behalf of Euphrates Maritime Ltd. As of August 21st the vessel was at anchor outside Houston.