VLCC Adrian Darya-1, formerly the Grace 1, was probably the most watched ship in the world yesterday as it sailed between Spain and Sardinia. She was released by Gibraltar at the beginning of the week after several weeks of being under arrest under suspicion of supplying oil to Syria.
Although the now Iran-flagged ship is still indicating her destination as the port of Kalamata in Greece, Greek deputy minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis has said the ship is not welcome to call there. This was thought to have been a result of diplomatic pressure from the US, who had said helping the ship would be akin to helping terrorists,
The then Grace 1 arrived in the Mediterranean after a long trip round the Cape of Good Hope. Were she to return via the Suez Canal she would need to offload a sizeable portion of her fully-laden cargo. But the US has warned all Mediterranean ports not to cooperate with the ship, which it claims has links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday August 21st that “we have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the US”.
Israeli and American naval special forces completed a large-scale exercise in the Mediterranean Sea last week simulating the takeover of a merchant ship carrying illegal weapons and contraband, as Iran and a US-led coalition face each other on shipping routes in the nearby Persian Gulf. The Israeli military said the exercise, Noble Rose 2019, was not in direct response to current tensions in the Persian Gulf.
However, speculation rose that the US special forces might have been practising an operation to storm and take over the Iranian VLCC. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, has warned that this could lead to the Strait of Hormuz becoming off-limits. “World powers know that in the case that oil is completely sanctioned and Iran’s oil exports are brought down to zero, international waterways can’t have the same security as before,” Rouhani said.