Gibraltar frees captain, three crewmembers of Iranian tanker

Gibraltar’s authorities have released from custody the captain and three crewmembers of the Iranian Grace 1 tanker, which was detained by Gibraltar (British overseas territory on the Pyrenean coast) on July 4, the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper reported, citing Gibraltar’s government.

The newspaper also cited Gibraltar’s prosecution, saying that the authorities had been poised to release the Iranian tanker on Thursday morning. However, a few hours before the decision was supposed to be revealed, the US Department of Justice applied to seize the vessel. Following the appeal, the decision was postponed until 16:00 local time.

The Panama-flagged Grace 1 supertanker was detained by Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion that it was transporting crude oil to Syria in violation of sanctions. The UK Royal Marines took part in the operation. According to Gibraltar authorities, the 28 crewmembers, citizens of India, Pakistan and Ukraine, were aboard the tanker. Gibraltar’s police arrested the captain of the tanker, the chief mate and two crewmembers.

Acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borell said that the vessel had been seized at the US request. Iran repeatedly voiced protests regarding the seizure, slamming it as an act of piracy. In the last few days, Iranian media have been reporting that Grace 1 would be released in the near future.

On July 19, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero was detained in the Strait of Hormuz after it had turned off the automatic recognition receiver and did not react to the warnings from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). According to the IRGC, the tanker was detained because it violated international rules and was followed toward the shore for a check.