TANKER CRISIS: Iranian oil tanker leaves Gibraltar despite US warrant
By: Newsroom Team
City of London Newsroom
The Iranian ship held by Gibraltar since July on suspicion of transporting oil to Syria has left port
after a court in Gibraltar freed the vessel last Thursday [15 August] having received “assurances”
from Tehran that “it would not discharge its cargo in Syria” despite a last minute request from the US to “further detain” the vessel was denied.
The US made the last-minute request on Friday, a day after the Gibraltar court lifted its detention order. Gibraltar said it could not comply with Washington’s request to issue a new detention order because US sanctions preventing oil exports from Iran did not apply to nor could they be enforced
by the EU.
A federal court in Washington has since issued a warrant to seize the tanker the oil it carries and nearly $1 million, after a request by the US justice department, on the grounds that the vessel had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard [IRG] which the US has designated a terrorist group.
The warrant is addressed to “the United States Marshal’s Service and/or any other duly authorized [sic] law enforcement officer.”
As soon as the court ruling was issued, the tanker changed its name from Grace 1 to Adrian Darya-1 and is now flies under the Iranian flag which it defiantly raised just before setting sail. In a further act of sheer defiance Tehran is now saying that despite its assurances that it gave to the Gibraltar court it WILL be sending the tanker to Syria “and all that entails.”
The ship was originally seized with the help of British Royal Marines on 4 July, after the government of Gibraltar said it had solid intelligence that it was heading for Syria in violation of current EU sanctions.
The seizure caused further increased tension to the already inflamed relationship between Tehran and the west, prompting the “tit for tat” seizure of the Stena Impero a U.K. registered oil tanker by Iran´s Revolutionary Guard on 19 July.
The Stena Impero was traveling to a port in Saudi Arabia on Friday when IRG commandos stopped it and took “effective” control as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz taking it under escort to the nearby Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
The vessel remains in Iranian hands and an official request by the ships owners Stena Bulk, to visit its 23 crew members made up of Indian, Latvian, Filipino and Russian nationals has “fallen on deaf ears” with no formal response from Iran to date. However, Stena Bulk has said in a statement that they are believed to be in “good health.”
The UK has since confirmed its willingness to join a US-led taskforce originally muted in a “call to arms” by the chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen Joseph Dunford back in July, to create an international military alliance to “ensure freedom of navigation” for merchant ships traveling through the key shipping route in the Strait of Hormuz and in the waters around both Iran and Somalia.