The Iranian supertanker detained by Britain over accusations that it was transporting oil to Syria has been released

Jon Nazca/ReutersIranian oil tanker Grace 1 sits anchored after it was seized by British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria on July 20, 2019.
  • Authorities in Gibraltar on Thursday released the Grace 1, the Iranian supertanker held by British authorities since early last month, the government told Business Insider.
  • The British Royal Marines seized the Grace 1 on July 4 on suspicion that it was smuggling Iranian oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
  • Earlier on Thursday, authorities in the British territory announced that the US Department of Justice made a last-minute application to detain the Grace 1. No decision has been made on that yet.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The British territory of Gibraltar has released the Grace 1, the Iranian supertanker held since early last month.

The Gibraltar Supreme Court ruled on Thursday afternoon to release the Iranian vessel, which has been held by authorities since early July, the government told Business Insider in a statement.

British Royal Marines seized the ship on July 4 under suspicions that it was transporting Iranian oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions – an act that exacerbated tensions between the West and Iran.

The Gibraltar chief justice’s decision came two days after the Iranian government formally assured Gibraltar’s chief minister – the head of the territory’s government – that the ship, if released, would not travel to a destination that would put it in breach of EU sanctions.

In other words, Iran has promised not to discharge its cargo to Syria.

FILE PHOTO: A British Royal Navy patrol vessel guards the oil supertanker Grace 1, that's on suspicion of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria, as it sits anchored in waters of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/ReutersFILE PHOTO: Oil supertanker Grace 1 sits anchored in waters of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar

It is also not clear whether Grace 1 has set sail from Gibraltar yet. Authorities released the Grace 1’s crew, who are mostly Indian nationals, earlier in the day.

The US Department of Justice has also made a separate, last-minute application to detain the Grace 1, the Gibraltar government said Thursday.


Read more:
A seized Iranian tanker took a several-thousand-mile detour around Africa in a possible attempt to sneak a shipment of crude oil to Syria

However, the application was not put before the Supreme Court on Thursday, the government said, adding that authorities will have to decide whether to refer that to separate proceedings.

It remains unclear whether the US will lodge another appeal to detain the ship.

Hassan rouhaniIranian Presidency Office via APIranian President Hassan Rouhani at a cabinet meeting in Tehran on July 3, 2019.

Britain’s seizure of the Grace 1 has exacerbated maritime tensions between the West and Iran.

Fifteen days after the Grace 1 was taken, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in an apparent retaliation.

Both sides have accused each other of illegally seizing the other’s tanker. The Stena Impero and its crew remain anchored at the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

Iran’s president last month suggested swapping tankers with the UK to end the hostilities, but the British foreign secretary rejected the idea late last month.

It’s not clear if Gibraltar’s decision to release the Grace 1 was tied to the tanker-swap idea.

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