An Iranian oil tanker detained in Gibraltar has been released, although the US has filed a new legal bid to seize the ship, the territory’s Chief Minister said on Thursday.
The vessel, the Grace 1, was carrying Iranian oil and seized by Royal Marines last month. Authorities alleged the cargo was destined for Syria in breach of an EU embargo.
Gibraltar chief minister Fabian Picardo said he received written assurance on Tuesday from Iran that the vessel would not travel to Syria and was now free to sail but added that the US Department of Justice had “requested that a new legal procedure for the detention of the vessel should be commenced”.
“That is a matter for our independent Mutual Legal Assistance authorities who will make an objective, legal determination of that request for separate proceedings,” he said in a statement.
Picrado added that Iranian pledges not to discharge the cargo in Syria meant “we have deprived the Assad regime in Syria of more than $140m of valuable crude oil”.
The Grace 1 was originally meant to have been released on Thursday after its captain and crew were released from custody. However, proceedings were halted when the US put in a request for a separate detention.
When the court resumed in the afternoon Court Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said there was no formal US application before him and released the vessel. “There are no applications in relation to the US letters of request [for mutual legal assistance],” he said.
The Grace 1 was seized in British waters around Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion it was shipping 2.1m barrels of crude oil to Syria.
Two weeks later Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a British tanker, the Stena Impero, near the Strait of Hormuz.
The US last year withdrew from a 2015 deal to limit Iran’s nuclear activities, amid suspicion that Tehran was still trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tensions have increased after Washington imposed and tightened sanctions against the country.