HOUSTON, Aug 20 (Reuters) – A cargo of Iranian crude oil that was seized by the United States was unloading on Sunday after waiting two-and-a-half months off the coast of Texas to discharge, ship tracking data showed. Suez Rajan, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, has been anchored off Galveston, about 50 miles (80 km) outside of Houston, since May 30, unable to unload because commercial agents fear any vessel that takes it will be shunned by customers.
But on Sunday, the Liberia-flagged tanker MR Euphrates was lined up next to Suez Rajan to perform a ship-to-ship transfer and remove the crude oil, according to ship tracking data on Refinitiv Eikon. The U.S. Department of Justice, Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Suez Rajan, a Suezmax vessel, requires a shipping company to transfer the crude to smaller ships, as its size and weight restrict it from directly entering the port.
Iran has meanwhile threatened retaliation against any company unloading Iranian oil from the seized tanker. U.S. lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden and members of his administration to resolve the delay in the transfer of the cargo. They estimated the oil on the 800,000 barrel tanker was worth $56 million. “Finally, after months of delay, the Biden administration has listened to my bipartisan call for action and signaled to Iran that the United States will not be complacent in the face of Iranian threats,” said U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, in a emailed statement to Reuters on Sunday. U.S. seizures of Iranian oil contribute money to the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which compensates victims of attacks. A fund official has determined there are insufficient assets for a round of payments next year to the nearly 16,000 Americans.