Sunday 18 August 2019

Gibraltar frees Iranian tanker despite US move

Held: Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar last month after it was seized by the British Royal Navy. AFP/Getty Images
Held: Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar last month after it was seized by the British Royal Navy. AFP/Getty Images

Kim Ripoll

Authorities in Gibraltar have reportedly released an Iranian supertanker at the centre of a stand-off with Tehran which the US had sought to seize through legal action.

The Supreme Court in Gibraltar had delayed a decision to release the ship after the US Department of Justice made a last-minute application to extend the vessel's detention, the Gibraltar government said earlier yesterday.

But the 'Gibraltar Chronicle' reported that there was no US application before the court when the hearing resumed yesterday afternoon.

The Grace 1, carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude, was seized on July 4 in a British Royal Navy operation off Gibraltar. The vessel was suspected of violating European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.

The detention of the Grace 1 saw Iran later seize the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which remains held by the Islamic republic.

Analysts hope the release of the Grace 1 by Gibraltar will see the Stena Impero similarly freed from detention.

The Grace 1's captain, an Indian national, and three officers were released from detention early yesterday.

The US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement that the "investigations conducted around the Grace 1 are a matter for the government of Gibraltar" and that it couldn't comment further.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Downing Street office said Iran was discussed during his meeting with US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton earlier in the week, though no details were released on the talks.

While there was no immediate reaction from Tehran, the US move will probably further stir tensions in the Gulf.

Irish Independent

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