AUTHORITIES in Gibraltar has released the Iranian oil tanker seized this month, despite a last minute attempt from Donald Trump to seize it.
The Grace 1 vessel, captured on July 4 in a Royal Navy operation off the coast of the British overseas territory, was released this afternoon. However, earlier today the Gibraltar authorities revealed an attempt to block the move from Washington. In a statement the Gibraltar Government said: “The US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered.”
In court Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said had it not been for US intervention “the ship would have sailed”.
The Chronicle also reports the captain and three officers of the Grace 1 have been released.
The 15,000-tonne tanker was captured after it was suspected of violating sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, which Tehran has denied.
Gibraltar’s Supreme Court had granted The Rock the power to detain the vessel for 30 days – which will expire on Saturday.
Earlier sources close to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, said the stand-off is set to come to an end, but Gibraltar hold the power amid the rising conflict.
A source close to Mr Picardo told The Sun: “There is no reason to keep Grace 1 in Gibraltar a moment longer if we no longer believe it is in breach of sanctions against the Syrian regime.
“That is now the case, so you can expect to see her on her way.”
The Gibraltar Government said it is seeking to “de-escalate” the situation over the Grace 1.
Jalil Eslami, an official at Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, was quoted in the Fars news agency – which is closely tied to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards – that a resolution was close.
Mr Eslami said: “Official and unofficial documents have been exchanged to resolve the matter”.
He added: “We hope the problem will be dealt with in the very near future.”
Britain considers the situation a matter for Gibraltar.
A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “The investigations being conducted around the Grace 1 are a matter for the Government of Gibraltar.
“As this is an ongoing investigation we are unable to comment further.”
On July 15, two weeks after the capture of Grace 1, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, near the Strait of Hormuz.
Tehran accused the vessel of marine violations.
Britain considers the action to have been illegal retaliation.
Relations between Iran and the West have worsened since last year, when Mr Trump abandoned the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The treaty agreed to restrict Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanction relief.
The US has since increased sanctions to Iranian oil exports – whilst Tehran has retaliated and increased its levels of Uranium.
On Monday Britain increased its military presence in the Gulf after HMS Kent set sail towards the region.
The Vessel will join a US-led mission protecting commercial shipping vessels in the Strait.
Andy Brown, the ship’s commanding officer stated the mission is primarily aimed to reduce conflict in the region.
Mr Brown said: “Our focus in the Gulf remains firmly one of de-escalating the current tensions.
“But we are committed to upholding freedom of navigation and reassuring international shipping, which this deployment on operations aims to do.’’