Iranian tanker released after Gibraltar rejects US request to detain it
The Iranian tanker caught in a stand-off between Tehran and the West has left Gibraltar, shipping data showed, hours after the British territory rejected a US request to detain the vessel for a longer period.
- The detention of Adrian Darya 1 ended last week, but Washington asked Gibraltar to keep holding it
- Gibraltar said it could not comply with the US request because it was bound by EU law
- The tanker left anchorage off Gibraltar about 11:00pm local time
British Royal Marines seized the tanker in Gibraltar in July on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran, in violation of European Union sanctions.
That triggered a series of events that have heightened tensions on international oil shipping routes through the Gulf.
The Adrian Darya 1, previously named Grace 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar about 11:00pm local time, Refinitiv shipping data showed. Its destination was not immediately clear.
Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, had written on Twitter earlier that the vessel was expected to leave on Sunday night, adding that two engineering teams had been flown to Gibraltar.
The tanker’s detention ended last week, but on Friday a federal court in Washington issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.
Gibraltar said on Sunday it could not comply with that request because it was bound by EU law.
“The EU sanctions regime against Iran, which is applicable in Gibraltar — is much narrower than that applicable in the US,” the Government said in a statement.
“The Gibraltar Central Authority is unable to seek an Order of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar to provide the restraining assistance required by the United States of America.”
Washington had attempted to detain the Adrian Darya 1 on the grounds it had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it has designated a terrorist organisation.
Iran has denied the tanker was ever headed to Syria.
New name and flag for released ship
The Grace 1 has been renamed Adrian Aryra 1 and now flies an Iranian flag. (AP: Marcos Moreno)
Tehran said it was ready to dispatch its naval fleet to escort the tanker if required.
“The era of hit and run is over … if top authorities ask the navy, we are ready to escort our tanker Adrian,” the Iranian navy’s Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.
Earlier on Sunday, video and photographs showed the vessel flying the red, green and white flag of Iran and bearing its new name Adrian Darya 1, painted in white, on the hull. The previous name had been painted over.
The initial impounding of the tanker sparked a diplomatic row that escalated when Tehran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf two weeks later. That tanker, the Stena Impero, is still detained.
The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States last year pulled out of an international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed economic sanctions.
Iran has denounced US efforts to set up an international maritime security coalition in the Gulf and insisted regional countries could protect the strategic waterway and work towards signing a non-aggression pact.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet on Sunday that: “Iran’s proposal for Regional Dialogue Forum and non-aggression pact trumps reliance on extraneous actors.”
The Adrian Darya 1 had originally flown the Panamanian flag, but Panama’s Maritime Authority said in July that the vessel had been de-listed after an alert that indicated the ship had participated in or was linked to terrorism financing.