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Iran Releases Maersk Tigris

An undated image of M/V Maersk Tigris

An undated image of M/V Maersk Tigris

The Iranian government released merchant ship M/V Maersk Tigris after being detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) in the Strait of Hormuz on April 28, both the Iranian government and the Maersk shipping company annouced on Thursday.

The ship is currently underway from its anchorage off of Bandar Abbas, a U.S. defense official told USNI News on Thursday.

Iran claimed the Marshall Islands flagged ship was held due to a almost decade-old legal dispute between the shipping line and a private Iranian company over a $10 million in lost goods.

The Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization and the Maersk Shipping Line had reached enough of an accord over the dispute to let the ship go, according to Iranian news agency, IRNA.

“The release follows a constructive dialogue with the Iranian authorities, including the Ports and Maritime Organization, and the provision of a letter of undertaking in relation to the underlying cargo case,” read a Thursday statement from Maersk.
“We will continue our dialogue with the aim to fully resolve the cargo case.”

The seizure of the ship by the IRGCN came at a sensitive time between Iran and the U.S., both embroiled in a negotiation of a nuclear deal.

Following the seizure of Maersk Tigris — and a failed IRGCN interdiction of U.S. flagged cargo ship M/V Maersk Kensington — the U.S. Navy began accompanying U.S. and British flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz. The Navy stopped the practice earlier this week.

Though Iran said the seizure had no political implications, the method in which the IRGCN captured the ship, surrounding Maersk Tigris in an international shipping lane and firing across its bow, has been almost universally considered odd.

“Maritime creditors often will have the ability to seize a ship to satisfy their claims. This usually occurs while the vessel is in port, and in many cases the owner will post security to allow the vessel to sail,” maritime lawyer Bruce Paulsen told USNI News last week.
“If security is not posted, usually the crew (or most of it) is repatriated, the cargo is offloaded and the ship is kept in port pending the litigation and possible auction. It is usually an orderly legal process. While I do not know Iranian law, I have handled many ship arrests, and have experienced none that were handled in such a manner as the seizure of the Maersk Tigris.”

Separate from the regular Iranian Navy, the IRGCN is closely tied to the sectarian forces in Iran and are constitutionally obligated to protect the Islamic faith.

  • Daniel is Daniel

    So they decided it was worth getting the Fifth Fleet completely spun up and of course impacting the worldwide oil price over $10 million? That just wonderful, thanks Iran.

    • NavySubNuke

      Be careful about attempting to interpret their gain/loss calculations without fully understanding their motivations/goals. I don’t think anyone fully understands their motivations/goals at this point but I doubt recovering any amount of money was their primary goal.
      Don’t forget the value to Iran of demonstrating their resolve and ability to impede commercial traffic through the strait. Also, getting Fifth fleet “completely spun up” benefits them by forcing the US to expend money and time countering moves – also a net benefit to the Iranians.

      • Daniel is Daniel

        Sometimes I’m not even sure they know what their goals are, it seems like the IRGC and the regular Iranian military are quite often the left hand and right hand trying to assemble a Lego kit without communicating.

        • NavySubNuke

          But that leads to the question of if that is actually true or if that is just the way they want it to appear. It is hard to say for sure. I think we tend to dismiss them as unintelligent or motivated by blind hatreds/ideology a little too easily – I think they tend to have more layers than we give them credit for.

        • Steve Skubinna

          The regular Iranian Navy are professionals. The IRGC on the other hand are not fully integrated into the military command structure and are not even fully under the control of the central government. They are loose cannons.

          I have worked SAR operations with their Navy, and they much like any other professional military force. I have also been harassed by the Pasdaran, and they are not at all. They see themselves as reporting to a higher authority than any mere government.

          • Daniel is Daniel

            My interactions with the two sides the Iranian martial forces has been much the same.

  • Gordan E. Van Hook

    In my experience, we often do not understand Iranian actions because we over estimate their internal abilities to communicate and coordinate. In fact, they are internally divided and bureaucratically chaotic and corrupt. They have virtually no ability to act cohesively from within and we often ascribe their actions to some grand plan when often they are just some random move by a corrupt mid level minion done with no regard for the big picture. In this case, I’m convinced that somebody in the government or industry with a $10M beef against Maersk paid off the IRGCN at some level to go out and get any Maersk ship, regardless of flag, so they could leverage the stalled negotiations. They didn’t have much chance to do otherwise as Maersk ships don’t call in any port in Iran due to current sanctions, and they have no ability to impound a vessel in the normal way of port state enforcing its laws.
    That’s how I see it, but it’s just an educated guess, which is all you get with these opaque rogue nations.

    • Frank Langham

      I give them just a bit more credit. … I surmise that the “old debt” was an intentionally frail pretext to re-assure themselves, and the world, of their “potency”, at a very delicate time. … Like a teenager trying to prove his manhood in the school parking-lot, with girls looking on.

    • Steve Skubinna

      To some extent I agree. However, I believe the claimed $10M dispute is window dressing created after the fact, when a hotheaded Pasdaran local commander got frisky and wanted to show the world what a toothless tiger the US is.

      And you know what? He did!

  • Frank Langham

    I have been reading the IRANIAN accounts of the naval “posturing” in the Gulf of Aden …
    It is clear to me (and always has been) that they are VERY vein and insecure in regard to their “place” and their “potency”, on the world stage. … VERY sensitive and self absorbed. … I mean … If you read their domestic propaganda and look at the way they paint their weapons and equipment (red nose-cones, etc.) and their over-compensating rhetoric, it is clear that the nation, as a whole, has a collective personality which is tantamount to a sexually frustrated adolescent with a very small penis. … I speculate that when it comes to Iran (in particular), PsyOps and deft propaganda may be “our” most effective weapons.

    • Gordan E. Van Hook

      I don’t disagree with your assessment, and again, we can only guess as to their real motives. My point is that they are not as good at coordinating DIME as we often assume they are.

    • Steve Skubinna

      Much of what comes out of Iran is posturing, to demonstrate their position as a regional power.

      That does not mean they are not dangerous. I believe the seizure of this vessel was an unsanctioned act by an enthusiastic local commander. Still, it played to Iran’s need to demonstrate their perceived strength and American perceived weakness. I’ve dealt with both the regular Iranian Navy and the Revolutionary Guard. The former are professional, the latter are loose cannons not fully under the control of the central government. If Iran finds itself in a war, it’s likely to be as a result of the IRGC.

  • Steve Skubinna

    “Iran claimed the Marshall Islands flagged ship was held due to a almost
    decade-old legal dispute between the shipping line and a private Iranian
    company over a $10 million in lost goods.”

    Riiiiiiight. And in related new, the Brooklyn Bridge celebrates another sale.

  • quackers

    A little history question. What was the name of the other M/V that was taken and the U.S.
    Sent in the Marines to take it back? An option? Or would it be not a option (war????)

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