Iran Tanker Moves but Still Anchored off Gibraltar
An Iranian tanker caught in the standoff between Tehran and the West shifted position on Friday, but its anchor was still down off Gibraltar and it was unclear if it was ready to set sail, a Reuters reporter said.
The Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marines at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran.
Gibraltar lifted the detention order on Thursday, but the vessel’s fate was further complicated by the United States, which made a last-ditch legal appeal to hold it.
A Reuters reporter in Gibraltar said the vessel appeared to be moving and more smoke could be seen coming from the funnel than in recent days. However, it was not clear that the ship was actually leaving and it still appeared to be at anchor.
Refinitiv data did not show the vessel moving.
Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said earlier that the tanker was free to leave as soon as it had organized its logistics.
“Could be today, could be tomorrow,” Picardo told BBC Radio.
The ship's seizure, with the help of British Royal Marines, had triggered a sharp deterioration in relations between Iran and Britain.
Gibraltar's Supreme Court lifted the detention order on Thursday after it said Tehran had given written assurances that the ship would not discharge its oil in Damascus.
Iranian officials on Friday denied giving any assurances, calling it a "victory" for Tehran.
"Iran has given no assurances over the Grace 1 not going to Syria to secure its release," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying Friday, according to AFP.
"The tanker's destination was not Syria ... and even if it was, it did not concern anyone else."
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei hailed a victory for Iran that he said had been achieved without making any concessions.
"Our illegally seized oil tanker is set free. This victory without giving any collateral is the result of #powerful_diplomacy and strong will to fight for a nation's rights," Rabiei said in a tweet.
“Based on the owner’s request, the oil tanker Grace 1 will depart for the Mediterranean after being reflagged under the Iranian flag and renamed Adrian Darya after preparing for the journey,”
Reuters cited Jalil Eslami, deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, as saying: "At the owner's request, the Grace 1 will depart for the Mediterranean after being reflagged under the Republic of Iran's flag and renamed as Adrian Darya for the voyage."
The ship was originally Panama-flagged and is carrying two million barrels of Iranian oil, he noted.