Gibraltar rejects US pressure, says Iranian oil tanker free to go

The U.S. has unsealed a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker detained in Gibraltar. Buzz60

The government of Gibraltar on Sunday rejected a U.S. request to continue holding an Iranian supertanker detained more than a month ago on suspicion of attempting to breach global sanctions against Syria.

The Grace 1 was free to go and could be sailing unfettered by Monday, authorities said. The Gibraltar government, in a statement, cited differences between the sanctions authorized by the U.S. and those of the European Union.

“The European sanctions regime against Iran, which is applicable in Gibraltar, is much narrower than that applicable in the US,” the statement said.

The ship, containing more than 2 million gallons of Iranian light crude oil, was seized July 4 in a British Royal Navy operation off the coast of Gibraltar. The seizure aggravated fears of a conflict in the Persian Gulf, where Iran claims control of the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments. Iran has seized Western tankers in the region on multiple occasions in the last few months.

A court in Gibraltar ordered the tanker released Thursday, setting off a flurry of diplomatic and legal efforts to keep the ship from leaving. On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department issued a warrant to seize the tanker for forfeiture, claiming the Iranians illegally used the U.S. banking system to finance the shipment of oil to Syria.


Richard De la Rosa, managing director of Astralship, the vessel’s shipping agent, told the Associated Press the ship could sail as soon as Monday.

“The vessel is ongoing some logistical changes and requirements that have delayed the departure,” Richard De la Rosa, managing director of Astralship, told the Associated Press.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also warned mariners against signing on to ships linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or others under U.S. sanctions.

“The maritime community should be aware that the U.S. government intends to revoke visas held by members of such crews,” Pompeo said.

The Gibraltar government noted that the Revolutionary Guard is not a designated a foreign terrorist organization in Gibraltar, the UK or in most of the EU generally, unlike in the U.S.

The weeks-long diplomatic dispute between Tehran and Washington comes amid a standoff between the two countries after President Donald Trump withdrew from an international nuclear accord with Tehran and reimposed sanctions. Tensions in the Persian Gulf have been on the rise since. Some European leaders have been unwilling to follow the U.S. lead in attempting to isolate the Persian nation.

*see full story by USA Today