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Iranian Tanker on Standby to Leave Gibraltar Despite US Attempts to Detain It

© REUTERS / JON NAZCAIranian oil tanker Grace 1 sits anchored after it was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria, in the Strait of Gibraltar, southern Spain July 20, 2019
Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 sits anchored after it was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria, in the Strait of Gibraltar, southern Spain July 20, 2019 - Sputnik International
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Iranian vessel the Grace 1, which has been caught up in a heated diplomatic dispute between Tehran and the West, was given permission to leave Gibraltar on 15 August, with the local authorities confirming on Saturday that the US Department of Justice is still seeking to detain the tanker on a number of allegations.

A shipping agent for Iranian supertanker the Grace 1 has claimed that the vessel is prepared to leave Gibraltar in “24 to 48 hours”, despite a last-minute effort by the United States to seize it again, reported AP.

On Saturday the managing director of Astralship, Richard de la Rosa, said logistical preparations had been put into motion, with a new crew of Indian and Ukrainian nationals on standby to take command of the ship.

Data from Refinitiv tracking on Saturday briefly showed the Iranian tanker carrying 2.1 million tonnes of Iranian oil had changed its position status off Gibraltar to underway, but by 12:00 GMT, it said the vessel was still anchored, reported Reuters.

On Friday, the US Justice Department issued a warrant for the seizure of Iranian supertanker the Grace 1. According to it, the vessel, all the oil on board, and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), bank fraud, money laundering, and terrorism statutes.

In addition, the document stresses that "a seizure warrant and a forfeiture complaint are merely allegations. The burden to prove forfeitability in a civil forfeiture proceeding is upon the government", according to the Justice Department.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif slammed the US attempt to seize Grace 1 just hours before Gibraltar was poised to set it free as piracy.

Oil Tanker Standoff

The Grace 1, an Iranian vessel which was caught up in a heated diplomatic dispute between Tehran and the West, was granted permission to leave Gibraltar on 15 August, despite the United States still seeking to detain it.

The impounded vessel had been seized by UK Royal Marines and detained for over a month in Gibraltar over allegations of attempting to breach the European Union's sanctions on Syria.

Earlier in July, two weeks after Iran's Grace 1 oil tanker was impounded, Tehran seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in apparent retaliation for the detention of the Iranian ship.

© REUTERS / HANDOUTStena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at Bandar Abbas port, July 21, 2019.
Iranian Tanker on Standby to Leave Gibraltar Despite US Attempts to Detain It - Sputnik International
Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at Bandar Abbas port, July 21, 2019.

The 23-person crew comprising Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationals has been stranded on the ship since it was seized in the Strait of Hormuz over what Iran described as a breach of international maritime regulations.

US-Iran Tensions

The developments come against the backdrop of a dangerous spike in tensions with Tehran, as Washington slapped crippling sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation after ditching the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, commonly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, last year, stopping billions of dollars in business deals and largely halting the sale of Iranian crude oil internationally.

Tensions proceeded to flare up dramatically, with the Persian Gulf witnessing attacks on oil tankers and other high-stakes confrontations, used by Washington as a pretext for beefing up its military presence in the region.

Iran, in its turn, downed a US drone over the coastal Hormozgan area, in its territorial waters, prompting more threats by the United States.

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