Gibraltar turned down a US request to re-impound the oil tanker Grace 1 on Sunday, saying it was unable to comply because it was bound by European Union law.
“The Central Authority’s inability to seek the orders requested is a result of the operation of European Union law and the differences in the sanctions regimes applicable to Iran in the EU and the US,” a Gibraltar government statement said.
“The EU sanctions regime against Iran – which is applicable in Gibraltar – is much narrower than that applicable in the US.”
British Royal Marines had detained the vessel in Gibraltar in July on suspicion that it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
Iran has denied the allegation, saying the ship was not destined to Syria.
Gibraltar lifted a detention order on the vessel on Thursday but its fate was in limbo by the United States after it made a last-ditch legal appeal to hold it.
A federal court in Washington on Friday issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.
The shipping agent for the oil tanker said Saturday the vessel is ready to depart Gibraltar in “24 to 48 hours,” despite a last-minute effort by the United States to seize it again.
Richard de la Rosa, the managing director of Astralship, said that logistical preparations are underway and that a new crew of Indian and Ukrainian nationals is expected to take command of the ship, which is carrying 2.1 million tons of Iranian oil.
Flag, name changed
Reuters images of the stationary vessel filmed off Gibraltar showed on Sunday that the super tanker has raised an Iranian flag and has had a new name painted on its side.
Video footage and photographs showed the supertanker flying the green, white and red flag of Iran and bearing the new name of ‘Adrian Darya-1’ painted in white on its hull.
Its previous name, ‘Grace 1’, had been painted over. The vessel’s anchor was still down off Gibraltar.
The Grace 1 had originally flown Panama’s flag but Panama’s Maritime Authority said in July that the vessel had been delisted.
Iran’s Navy commander said on Sunday the country is ready to dispatch its naval fleet to escort the Adrian Darya-1 oil tanker.
“The vessel is expected to leave tonight (Sunday night),” Iranian Ambassador to London Hamid Baeidinejad said on Twitter.
“The era of hit and run is over ... if top authorities ask the navy, we are ready to escort out tanker Adrian,” Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said.
The initial impounding of the Grace 1 kicked off a sequence of events that saw Iran seize a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf two weeks later for breaching maritime rules.
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, targeting Iran’s vital oil sales and banking system.
AP also contributed to this story.