Gibraltar detained on Thursday a super tanker carrying crude oil to Syria because it had “reasonable grounds” to believe that the Grace 1 ship was violating European Union sanctions against Syria, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said in a statement.
Gibraltar has reason to believe that the super tanker was carrying crude oil to Syria’s Banyas Refinery, which is owned by an entity subject to European Union sanctions against Syria, Picardo said.
The Grace 1 has sailed from the Persian Gulf all the way around Africa and was seized at the mouth of the Mediterranean today.
Shipping data that Reuters has reviewed suggests that the tanker was loaded with Iranian oil off the Iranian coast. Yet, the tanker documents point that the oil comes from Iraq, according to Reuters.
If the tanker indeed loaded oil from Iran, it is not only in breach of EU sanctions on the Syrian entity owning the refinery believed to be the destination of the oil, but it also violates the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.
Iran was spotted resuming illicit shipping of oil to Syria, with a million barrels of oil arriving in early May, for a first such delivery since the start of this year.
Experts believe that Iran will be re-opening and using more of its illicit oil channels to keep oil trade and continue getting some revenues from its most precious export commodity.
According to TankerTrackers, the Iranian supertanker Grace 1 departed from Iran in the middle of April for what they believed to be Syria by sailing all around Africa. TankerTrackers, however, is not convinced that Grace 1 was loaded with crude oil. The tanker tracking firm analyzed imagery of the tanker but couldn’t see it loading crude oil. Grace 1 has a history of ship-to-ship transfers of fuel oil which is heavier than crude oil and the tanker is heavy, TankerTrackers said on Thursday.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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