Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has pledged that Gibraltar's Supreme Court will evaluate any US attempt to stop the Iranian tanker Grace 1's departure after its release.
“She is able to leave as soon as she organises the logistics necessary in order to sail a ship of that size wherever it's going next. Could be today, could be tomorrow,” Picardo told BBC.
When asked about the US launching a last-ditch bid to seize the Grace1, Picardo said, “those will be determinations made purely objectively and independently by those authorities and then subject to once again the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar”.
He pointed out that the issue “could go back to the court absolutely”.
On Thursday, the Gibraltar government stated that “the US Department of Justice has applied to seize the [Iranian tanker] Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered.”
Iranian Official Says Grace 1 to Be Renamed
Meanwhile, Jalil Eslami, deputy head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation, said that the Grace 1’s crew will “start their journey after preparations, including refuelling”.
“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 the Adrian Darya after preparing for the journey,” Eslami was quoted by Tasnin news agency as saying.
Tehran Denies Its Commitments on Grace 1
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi has meanwhile said that Iran had not made any commitments pertaining to the release of the Grace 1 tanker.
“As we said earlier […] Syria was not its destination and we have upheld the same […] and reiterated that it was nobody's business even if it was Syria”, Mousavi pointed out.
He responded to Picardo’s previous claims that Gibraltar authorities lifted the detention order for the Grace 1 after alleged written assurances by Iran that the tanker would not discharge oil in Syria.
US Threatens Visa Ban on Grace 1 Crew
In a separate development, US Department of State spokesman Morgan Ortagus threatened “serious consequences for any individuals associated with the Grace 1”, warning that the US plans “to revoke visas held by members of such crews”.
Ortagus claimed that the Grace 1 "was assisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by transporting oil from Iran to Syria".
The statement comes after authorities of Gibraltar ruled on Thursday to release the Iranian tanker, which was captured on 4 July on suspicion of transporting oil to Syria in alleged violation of EU sanctions, something that led to a cooling in ties between London and Tehran.
The seizure was followed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps seizing the UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker in the Persian Gulf on 19 July over the vessel’s alleged violation of maritime rules.
Although both London and Tehran claimed that the tanker seizures were unrelated incidents, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned last week that Britain would not use the Strait of Hormuz if Iranian vessels were not able to pass through the Strait of Gibraltar.