Iran’s tanker freed by Gibraltar poised to set sail

Tehran, Aug 16 (AFP/APP):An Iranian tanker seized by Gibraltar last month is preparing to set sail after being released, a senior Iranian shipping official said Friday.

The ship’s seizure on July 4, with the help of British Royal Marines, triggered a sharp deterioration in relations between Tehran and London and the tit-for-tat detention by Iran of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero.

The Grace 1 will be renamed and switch to the Iranian flag for its onward journey, the deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, Jalil Eslami, told state television.

Gibraltar’s Supreme Court ordered the tanker released on Thursday after the British overseas territory said it had received assurances from Iran that the Grace 1 would not head to any country subject to European Union sanctions.

The vessel had been detained on suspicion that its cargo was destined for the Banyas oil refinery in Syria in breach of an EU embargo.

But Iran denied it had provided any assurances to secure the ship’s release, saying Gibraltar was only seeking to “save face”. The Gibraltar government insisted that Tehran had given a written commitment.
Following the Grace 1’s release, Britain renewed its demand that Iran release the British-flagged tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.

Tehran claimed that Stena Impero was in violation of “international maritime rules”, but the move was widely seen as retaliation for the detention of the Grace 1.

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