Iranian tanker is relocating but is still anchored at the port of Gibraltar

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — An Iranian oil tanker held by Gibraltar authorities changed its position on Friday but is still anchored there, a Reuters journalist said, noting whether it was preparing to sail.

Authorities in Gibraltar could not be reached for comment.

Royal Navy special forces seized the tanker Grace 1 in the dark at the western entrance to the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by transporting oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran.

Gibraltar authorities ended the detention of the tanker on Thursday, but its fate is complicated again after the United States filed a last-minute court order to maintain its detention.

A Reuters journalist in Gibraltar said the ship appeared to have moved more smoke out of the previous days. But it was unclear whether the tanker was actually moving.

Refinitiv’s data did not show that the ship had moved.

Gibraltar’s prime minister, Fabian Piccardo, told BBC radio: “It can leave as soon as the logistics necessary to sail a ship of this size to its next destination … can be today and tomorrow.”

Washington has tried to seize the tanker based on its association with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is classified by the United States as a terrorist organization.

When asked about the US request, Picardo replied that it was up to the Gibraltar Supreme Court decision.

“It may definitely be up to the court again.”

The last-minute US intervention was the latest turning point in the crisis, which began in the early hours of July 4 when the British Royal Navy stepped on the Grace 1 to seize it.

This was followed by a series of incidents in which Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf two weeks later, raising tension in a vital corridor for global oil shipments.

The tanker, Stina Impero, is still being held.

The two carriers have become pressure cards amid a wider crisis involving wider hostility since the United States last year pulled out of a global deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed economic sanctions on Tehran.

Gibraltar authorities said they found evidence confirming that the Grace 1 was carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil destined for Syria’s Banias refinery, a charge Tehran denies.

Picardo said on Thursday he had decided to end the tanker’s detention after receiving written guarantees from Tehran that the ship would not unload its 2.1 million barrels of oil in Syria. Iran also denied that it had made any commitments to secure the tanker’s release.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned all sailors that if they joined the crew of any Iranian Revolutionary Guard ship, they would expose themselves to be barred from entering the United States.

Iranian officials said the Grace 1 would sail soon after its 25-member crew finished preparations, including refueling. They described the US attempt to prevent the tanker from sailing as “piracy”.

“At the request of the owner, the oil tanker Grace 1 will head towards the Mediterranean after re-registering under the Iranian flag and changing its name to Adrian Daraya following the preparation of the trip,” Jalil Islami, assistant director of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, was quoted as saying.

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