Gibraltar seizes Iranian oil tanker resulting in UK-Iran diplomatic row
A DIPLOMATIC row between the UK and Iran has broken out following the detention in Gibraltar of a very large crude carrier said to be carrying sanctioned Iranian crude oil to Syria
A DIPLOMATIC row between the UK and Iran has broken out following the detention in Gibraltar of a very large crude carrier said to be carrying sanctioned Iranian crude oil to Syria.
Iran has condemned the seizure of the 1997-built Grace 1 describing the vessel's detention as 'illegal'.
Royal Marines using helicopters and speed boats intercepted the Panama-flagged tanker in the early hours of July 4 while the vessel was in British and Gibraltar territorial waters and waiting to take on supplies, reports Lloyd's List of UK.
Lloyd's List had reported earlier in the week that the Grace 1 was heading for the British territory, after loading a 2 million-barrel cargo in Iranian waters around mid-April, vessel tracking data show. The tanker used the same strategies and tactics previously used by tankers shipping Iranian crude to China and Syria. Its Automatic Identification Signal was turned on and off to hide its location, cargo origin and destination.
Iran's official news agency said the country's Foreign Ministry had summoned UK ambassador Nicolas Hopton to protest over what its spokesman Abbas Mousavi said was 'the illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker'.
The ship sailed around the Cape of Good Hope after loading around mid-April off Iran and spending time at anchor in two different locations in waters off the United Arab Emirates.
Gibraltar's chief minister Fabian Picardo said the government had 'reasonable grounds' to believe the tanker and its crude cargo had breached European Union sanctions against Syria.
The crude was heading to the Banyas Refinery in Syria, he said, without expanding on how or why the government held this view or from where the intelligence came. That refinery is the property of an entity subject to EU sanctions against Syria since 2014.
'The information was made available to the Gibraltar government and of course this has to be tested in judicial proceedings if there are any,' Mr Picardo said in an interview on the BBC.
He said the interception was made solely on the breach of European sanctions and information that the cargo was destined for Syria, rather than any breach of unilateral US sanctions.