Iranian tanker sought by US heading towards Greece

MADRID (AP) – An Iranian supertanker with USD130 million worth of light crude oil that the United States (US) suspects is tied to a sanctioned organisation has left Gibraltar and was heading yesterday east into the Mediterranean Sea, with its next destination reported to be Greece.

The Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1, previously named Grace 1, set course for Kalamata, Greece, with an estimated arrival on August 25, according to ship tracking service MarineTraffic. It wasn’t immediately clear why the tanker would be heading there or whether the destination could change.

The vessel left Gibraltar late last Sunday after having been detained for a month in the British overseas territory for allegedly attempting to breach European Union (EU) sanctions on Syria. Gibraltar authorities rejected attempts by the US to seize the oil tanker again, arguing that EU regulations are less strict than US sanctions on Iran.

Gibraltar said it had been assured by Iran that the tanker wouldn’t unload its cargo in Syria.

Iranian government officials have yet to publicly acknowledge the ship’s next destination, or where it will discharge its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of crude oil. Iran has denied it was ever headed for Syria.

Renamed Adrian Aryra 1 super tanker hoisting an Iranian flag sails in the waters in the British territory of Gibraltar. PHOTO: AP

The tanker’s release comes amid a growing confrontation between Iran and the West after US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago. Shortly after the tanker’s detention in early July, Iran seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which remains held by the Islamic Republic. Analysts had said the Iranian ship’s release by Gibraltar might mean that the Stena Impero could go free. But Iranian officials denied there was any link between the two ships.

“There is no specific relation between these two ships,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said of the Stena Impero and the Adrian Darya 1. “We are glad that our stance about the unlawful and illegal seizure of our tanker has been proven.”

“Regarding the release of the law-breaking British tanker (Stena Impero), we have to wait for the court’s ruling,” he added.

“This tanker has committed two to three nautical violations that are being investigated. We hope that these investigations will finish as soon as possible and a verdict will be issued and if the verdict orders its release, it can continue to sail its path.”

In a last-ditch effort to stop the release, the US unsealed a warrant last Friday to seize the Adrian Darya 1 and its cargo, citing violations of US sanctions as well as money laundering and terrorism statutes.