Iranian tanker heads to Greece after release

The Adrian Darya 1 left anchorage off Gibraltar on Sunday. Iran said the US warrant had no legal basis and any renewed US attempt to seize the tanker would have "heavy consequences". PHOTO: REUTERS
The Adrian Darya 1 left anchorage off Gibraltar on Sunday. Iran said the US warrant had no legal basis and any renewed US attempt to seize the tanker would have "heavy consequences". PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI • An Iranian tanker sailed through the Mediterranean towards Greece yesterday after it was released from detention off Gibraltar, and Teheran said that any US move to seize the vessel again would have "heavy consequences".

The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar at about 11pm local time on Sunday. Refinitiv ship-tracking data showed that the vessel was heading to Kalamata in Greece and was scheduled to arrive on Aug 25.

The seizure of the tanker by the British Royal Marines near Gibraltar on July 4 led to a weeks-long stand-off between Teheran and the West. The tanker was seized on the suspicion that it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

Iran has denied its tanker was ever headed to Syria, a close ally of Teheran, but the move has heightened tensions on international oil shipping routes through the Gulf.

Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, lifted the detention order last Thursday.

But the next day, a federal court in Washington issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly US$1 million (S$1.38 million).

Gibraltar said on Sunday it could not comply with that request because it was bound by EU law.

Washington wanted to detain the tanker on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which it has designated as a terrorist organisation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said while visiting Finland: "We are happy this ordeal has ended and I hope this will lead to less escalation."

He also said that the US warrant had no legal basis and was politically motivated to "make more escalation".

The Greek authorities had no immediate comment on the situation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said yesterday that any renewed US attempt to seize the tanker would have "heavy consequences".

The Adrian Darya, which was reflagged to Iran after being delisted by Panama on May 29, was fully laden and carrying about two million barrels of oil, Refinitiv data showed. The cargo was valued at tens of millions of dollars.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year, while the EU is still part of the accord, which allows Teheran to sell its oil.

Washington wants to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero and has reimposed US sanctions, which place heavy penalties on any breaches, even for non-US citizens and companies.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards on July 19 seized the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after the Grace 1 was commandeered.

A senior Iranian lawmaker said yesterday that the crisis in Iran's ties with Britain would not be over until the tanker reached its destination and that Britain has the primary responsibility to end the oil tanker crisis.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2019, with the headline 'Iranian tanker heads to Greece after release'. Print Edition | Subscribe