Raf Sanchez — The Daily Telegraph Aug 15, 2019
Gibraltar has released an Iranian oil tanker detained last month despite a last-minute US bid to have the ship seized.
The US made an emergency appeal to Gibraltar to keep the ship in custody but authorities announced on Thursday afternoon that they were releasing it.
The release of the Grace 1 after more than a month will raise hopes that Iran may now release the Stena Impero, a British-flagged tanker seized in relation by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
It was not immediately clear when the Grace 1 would actually set sail from Gibraltar or if the US would take further action to prevent its departure.
The ship was seized on July 4 on the grounds that it was violating EU sanctions on Syria by carrying 2.1 million barrels of crude oil to the Syrian coast, Gibraltarian authorities said.
Fabian Picardo, chief minister of Gibraltar, said he had received written assurances from Iran that the ship would not violate EU sanctions.
“In light of the assurances we have received, there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the Grace 1 in order to ensure compliance with the EU Sanctions Regulation,” he said.
“With effect from today I have therefore revoked the Specification of the Vessel.”
He said the US request for the detention of the vessel would be considered separately.
Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the UK, said the US had “desperately” tried to stop the ship’s release but faced “a miserable defeat”. He said the ship would set sail from Gibraltar “soon”.
Tehran has repeatedly accused Gibraltar and the UK of seizing the ship as part of Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Iranian economy.
A Foreign Office spokesman said earlier in the week: “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.”
The Indian captain of the Grace 1 and three of his officers have been released from arrest in Gibraltar, the government said.
The captain previously accused Britain of using unnecessary “brute force” when Royal Marines took the ship.
He said the marines pointed guns at his unarmed crew and forced them to kneel on the deck.
“They just pointed the gun and they started shouting look forward, look forward,” he told the BBC. “I was totally shocked I didn’t know what to feel because they didn’t give me a chance to talk.”