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UK offers to return seized Iranian oil tanker

(Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

PortandTerminal.com, July 15, 2019

Gibraltar and the UK would help with the release of the detained Iranian crude oil carrier Grace 1 if there are guarantees the ship would not be going to Syria.

GIBRALTAR – Britain offered on Saturday to return a seized Iranian tanker if Tehran provided guarantees that the oil would not go to Syria.

Earlier this month, Gibraltar authorities and British Navy’s Royal Marine detained the 300,000 dwt vessel believed to have been carrying crude oil to Syria. Laboratory tests confirmed that Grace 1 had 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil on board.

Syria desperately needs oil and Iran is one of the few countries desperate enough to try shipping it to them.

Police in Gibraltar arrested last week the captain, chief officer and two second officers of Grace 1 due to a suspected violation of EU sanctions against Syria. All four men were subsequently released, the police confirmed.

Last week the HMS Montrose (pictured above) forced three Iranian boats to back off after they sought to block a British tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz

The offer appeared to be an effort to cool down relations between the two countries at a time when tensions between Iran and Washington have raised fears of a military conflict and threatened to unravel a 2015 deal constraining Iran’s nuclear program.

Last week a British warship forced three Iranian boats to back off after they sought to block a British tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz.


CONTEXT: The Syrian Oil Embargo

Syrian President Bashar Assad has waged a brutal war against his own people that has killed 560,000 Syrians and forced 5 million more to flee their country

The Syrian Assad regime desperately needs oil and Iran is one of the few countries desperate enough to try shipping it to them.

In the area controlled by Assad, oil consumption stands at around 136,000 bpd. Production, meanwhile, is only 24,000 barrels per day. This means that the regime must import significant volumes of crude oil at an estimated expense of more than $2 billion per year.

The EU imposed an oil embargo on Syria and bans equipment that could be used in a crackdown on Syrian civilians.

Iran, who has poured billions into Syria to prop up the Assad regime in recent years, is now feeling US pressure on both fronts—one at home as its own oil exports are restricted, and another in Syria.


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