Mixed Reporting of Possible UK Plans to Release Seized GRACE 1 Tanker
August 13: Various international media outlets have reported today that Iranian officials have stated that Britain might free its oil tanker GRACE 1 soon. The vessel was seized on July 04 by Gibraltar port and law enforcement agencies, aided by a detachment of Royal Marines. Suspected of being on its way to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria, which is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria, it was carrying a cargo of 2.1m barrels of light Iranian crude oil. Since the seizure, it has been un-flagged. Iran maintains that EU sanctions should not apply in this case (as it is not an EU member and it maintains the vessel did not enter Gibraltar’s territorial waters nor was the vessel headed to Syria) and calls the seizure an “act of piracy”. Two weeks after the seizure, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC[N] seized the UK-flagged STENA IMPERO.
Despite the UK’s statements that it will not barter over tankers with Iran, the deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation yesterday stated “Britain is interested in releasing Iran’s oil tanker Grace 1 … following the exchange of some documents, we hope the release will take place soon” (IRNA cited by various international media.) Additionally, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, quoting unidentified Gibraltar authorities, reportedly stated the tanker would be freed by Tuesday evening. (Reuters) Moreover, Dryad Global reported yesterday that “At 1340 UTC the detained VLCC Grace 1 signalled a new destination of Morocco and at 1352 UTC was seen to revert the entry back to its original entry.”
The UK has not confirmed such reports, and indeed Reuters reports that a senior source in the government of British overseas territory denied that would happen on Tuesday.