16 Aug 2019

Iranian oil tanker: Gibraltar orders release of Grace 1

7:29 am on 16 August 2019

Gibraltar has freed an Iranian oil tanker detained last month on suspicion of sanctions-busting, despite a last-minute plea by the US authorities.

Released Iranian supertanker Grace 1 remains off the coast of Gibraltar.

Released Iranian supertanker Grace 1 remains off the coast of Gibraltar. Photo: AFP

The UK territory received written assurances from Iran that the ship would not discharge its cargo in Syria.

Grace 1, carrying Iranian oil, was stopped by Royal Marines on 4 July, triggering a standoff with Tehran.

Gibraltar's chief justice, Anthony Dudley, said no US application was currently before the court.

An independent legal body would make a determination on the American request, Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement.

The tanker remained off Gibraltar today but, according to witnesses speaking to Reuters news agency, its prow had moved around by at least 180 degrees.

It was unclear whether this was because of strong sea currents or because it was preparing to leave.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said Iran must abide by the assurances it had given that the tanker would not proceed to Syria, which is under EU sanctions.

The FCO described Syria as a "regime that has deployed chemical weapons against its own people".

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the US attempt to stop the tanker's release, accusing the Trump administration of attempted "piracy".

A couple of weeks after the Iranian tanker was stopped, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Gulf and, despite official denials, there had been speculation of a swap if the Grace 1 was freed.

Relations between the US and Iran have deteriorated sharply since US President Donald Trump took office in 2017, with the two countries coming close to armed conflict in June.


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