Defiant Iran prepares for oil tanker to leave Gibraltar with Indian crew
London: An Iranian oil supertanker released from detention by Gibraltar authorities earlier this week could be ready to sail on with its Indian crew on board soon, in defiance of a US warrant after the British territory's government said it was unable to seek a court order to detain the vessel.
Grace 1, which had been detained in the semi-autonomous British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar on the Spanish coast last month, has been renamed the Adrain Darya based on the Persian word for sea.
The vessel, which had been Panama flagged, has been re-flagged under the flag of Iran and is free to leave after the Gibraltar government confirmed that it would not be able to seek a court detention order on behalf of the US authorities.
The US has obtained a warrant to seize the vessel over violations of American sanctions on Iran.
"The Gibraltar Central Authority is unable seek an Order of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar to provide the restraining assistance required by the United States of America," a Gibraltar government statement said on Sunday.
It clarified that the inability to seek the orders sought by the US is based on the application of the European Union (EU) law and the differences in the sanctions regimes applicable to Iran in the EU and the US.
"The EU sanctions regime against Iran which is applicable in Gibraltar is much narrower than that applicable in the US," the statement notes.
The US Department of Justice had requested that a new legal procedure for the detention of the tanker be commenced on the grounds that it has links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it designates as a terrorist organisation.
However, Gibraltar said that it was unable to provide assistance under the International Mutual Legal Assistance purview because the IRGC is not a designated foreign terrorist organisation in Gibraltar, the UK or in the EU generally, unlike in the US.
It would therefore seem that after meeting all the requirements under its agreement with the Gibraltar authorities, the renamed Grace 1 would be ready to depart soon.
"At the owner's request, the Grace 1 will depart for the Mediterranean after being reflagged under the Islamic Republic of Iran's flag and renamed as Adrian Darya for the voyage," Jalil Eslami, deputy head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation, was quoted as saying in the UK media.
"The 25-member crew will start their journey after preparations, including refuelling. The ship was of Russian origin and Panama-flagged and is carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian oil," said Eslami.
The Gibraltar authorities had said the tanker was en route to Syria in breach of EU sanctions and had agreed to lift its detention order after formal written assurances from Iran that the ship would not discharge its cargo in Syria and therefore not be in breach of the EU sanctions. The crew on board the vessel include majority Indians but also Russians, Latvians and Filipinos, who spent over a month in detention on board the ship since it was seized on July 4.