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Gibraltar frees Iranian supertanker Grace 1, despite US move to seize

PortandTerminal.com, August 16, 2019

The US justice department has issued a warrant to seize a detained Iranian oil tanker, a day after a judge in Gibraltar ordered it to be released.

GIBRALTAR – On Thursday a Gibraltar judge ordered the release of the Grace 1, six weeks after it was detained on suspicion of violating international sanctions on Syria, the alleged planned recipient of the crude oil it was carrying.

The judge had rejected a last-minute legal move by Washington demanding that the ship remain detained.

After having its legal move rejected by the courts in Gibraltar, the US Justice Department then issued a warrant on Friday for the seizure of the Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1.

The Grace 1 supertanker, which is carrying 2.1m barrels of oil, was detained on 4 July on suspicion of illegally transporting oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions targeting the regime of Bashar al Assad.


The Panama-flagged very large crude carrier (VLCC) Grace 1 and its cargo were detained by Gibraltar Port and Law Enforcement agencies, assisted by a detachment of the Royal Navy, in the early morning hours of July 4.

 A detachment of Royal Marines and the authorities in Gibraltar seized the supertanker suspected of carrying oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

“We have reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas Refinery in Syria

This action arose from information giving the Gibraltar Government reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel, the Grace 1, was acting in breach of European Union sanctions against Syria,” the government of Gilbraltar said in a statement at the time.

Gibraltar said it had evidence the ship was bound for Syria when it was detained, but that Iran had now provided formal diplomatic assurances it would sail to another destination.

Iran had previously called the detention of Grace 1 an “illegal interception”. In retaliation for the seizing of it tanker, Iran seized the British flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19th.

What next?

Logistical arrangements are currently being put in place by the vessel’s owners after it was released on Thursday following six weeks detained under Gibraltar’s sanctions legislation.

The Iranian supertanker Grace 1 is unlikely to sail from Gibraltar before Sunday with six crewmen including a new captain scheduled to arrive this weekend according to local reports in Gibraltar. A lawyer representing the Grace 1’s current captain, said his client had asked to be relieved of his command. “He wants to go home,” his lawyer said.

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