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Gibraltar Releases Iranian Tanker

The authorities of Gibraltar have ruled to release Iranian-flagged tanker Grace 1 today, according to media reports, despite the US DOJ claim that it had asked Gibraltar to detain the tanker. The Supreme Court in Gibraltar said it had not received a written request from the DOJ to detain the tanker.

The tanker will be released immediately.

An early exclusive report by The Sun late on Wednesday quoted an unnamed source close to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo saying that Gibraltar was planning on releasing the ship today. But an update on the event suggested that the United States had made an application to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar today, according to Reuters.

The judge in the case, however, said no application was received.

Previous reports last week from Iran’s IRNA agency quoted Iran’s port authority as saying the Gibraltar authorities were about to release the Grace 1 soon. Yet the IRNA report was quickly brushed aside as untrue, according to Gibraltar government officials who also declined to be named in their communications with the media, including the AP and Reuters.

The seizing of the Grace 1 on allegations that it carried oil for Syria in violation of EU sanctions against the country marked the start of tension between Iran and the UK, which progressed to Iran threatening an in-kind response, which came in mid-July when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized British-flagged Stena Impero in the Persian Gulf.

Despite the quick escalation, talks between the two countries have been ongoing. Nevertheless, Britain is sending a second military ship to the Persian Gulf to guard its vessels, and Iran is still insisting that the Grace 1 was not carrying oil for Syria.

The judge in the case said it received written assurances from Iran that the oil was not destined to a EU-sanctioned entity.

The events call into question the information other Gibraltar officials gave the AP and Reuters early on that dismissed Iran’s claim that the tanker would soon be released.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on August 15 2019 said:
    Gibraltar’s decision to release Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 will lessen tension between Britain and Iran and also tension in general in the Gulf area. Iran should now be expected to release a British-flagged ship, the Stena Impero in return.

    With Britain facing the biggest crisis since the 1956 Suez crisis in the form of Brexit and with a declining pound, it should not get entangled in US escalating tension with Iran and should concentrate instead on dealing with its own problems.

    Actually, Britain’s interests and shipping in the Gulf would be better protected by not doing US bidding as it did when British marines seized the Iranian tanker in Gibraltar.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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