Gibraltar releases Iranian tanker Grace 1 even after US made last-minute request of detention

Authorities in Gibraltar have released the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, which was seized on July 4 on suspicion it was shipping 2.1m barrels of crude oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

The decision to release the ship was taken hours after the US US Department of Justice launched a separate last-minute legal move to detain the vessel.

The Chief Justice, Anthony Dudley said that there was no US application currently before the court. “That’s not before me,” he said. “There are no applications in relation to the US letters of request [for mutual legal assistance].”

The court heard that the Gibraltar authorities had lifted the detention of the Grace 1, but it was not immediately clear why that decision had been taken.

The Gibraltar Government has just published detailed reasons why the ship was released.

Gibraltar had solid documentary evidence the vessel was bound for Syria when it was detained after entering British Gibraltar territorial waters for stores and spares. But the Government of Gibraltar has now received formal written assurances from the Iranian government that the ship will not discharge its cargo in Syria.

On that basis, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has decided to lift the detention order and allow the ship to sail.

It is not clear at this stage when the ship will sail from #Gibraltar , or whether the US will formally apply to the court to detain it before that happens.

The vessel, Grace 1 was carrying Iranian oil and it was stopped by Royal Marines on 4 July, triggering a standoff with Tehran.

US’ close ally, the UK Foreign Office was unable to comment on the US request.

Earlier, a spokesman for Gibraltar’s government also confirmed that police proceedings against four members of the crew, including the captain – an Indian national – had ended.

The crews legal team speaking with media said that the police had said this was due to actions by the Iranian government, and that it was no longer in the public interest to proceed.

The crew of 28 are Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino and have spent 43 days in detention on board the ship.

The Grace 1’s captain said in a statement: “I am grateful and thankful for my release. And I am grateful to all who have facilitated my release in my legal team.”

The tanker was seized after the government of Gibraltar suggested it was heading for Syria, in breach of EU sanctions. The Gibraltar authorities have since received assurances from the captain of the ship and Iran that Grace 1 was not going to Syria.

About 30 marines were flown from UK to Gibraltar to help police detain the tanker and its cargo, at the request of the Gibraltar government.

The initial seizure of the tanker sparked a diplomatic crisis between the UK and Iran, which has escalated over recent weeks and saw the seizure of a British-flagged and Swedish-owned oil tanker, Stena Impero, in the Gulf.

Source : Various

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