Panama’s Maritime Authority (PMA) said on Thursday July 4th that Iranian tanker Grace 1 (IMO 9116412), which was seized last week by Royal Marines in Gibraltar, ceased to be listed in Panama’s international boat registry as of May 29th.
The PMA said that Grace 1 had been delisted after it had received an alert that the ship had participated in or was linked to terrorism financing. Although the tanker was flying a Panama flag, Iran claimed ownership and objected to the seizure of its ship.
Royal Marines abseiled onto the Grace 1 tanker on Thursday. They landed a helicopter on the moving vessel on Thursday in pitch darkness.
Gibraltar said on Friday that it had obtained an order extending the detention of Grace 1 for 14 days because there were grounds to believe it was breaking sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
“The Supreme Court has issued today’s order on the basis that there are reasonable grounds to consider that the detention of the Grace 1 is required for the purposes of compliance with the EU Regulation 36/2012 on sanctions on Syria,” the Gibraltar government said.
Also on Friday an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander threatened to seize a UK ship in retaliation. “If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities’ duty to seize a British oil tanker,” Mohsen Rezai said on Twitter.
Tehran summoned the British ambassador on Thursday to voice “its very strong objection to the illegal and unacceptable seizure” of its ship, a move that also eliminated any doubts about the ownership of the vessel.
The Gibraltar government said the crew on the tanker were being interviewed as witnesses, not criminal suspects, in an effort to establish the nature of the cargo and its ultimate destination.
The Gibraltar spokesman said the 28-member crew, who have remained on board the tanker, were mainly Indians with some Pakistanis and Ukrainians. Police and customs officials remained on board the vessel to carry out their investigation, but the Royal Marines were no longer present.
A US State Department spokeswoman said, “We welcome international partners’ resolve in upholding and enforcing these sanctions.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the crude oil cargo was from Iran. The ship’s paperwork had said the oil was from neighbouring Iraq, but tracking data reviewed by Reuters suggested it had loaded at an Iranian port.
The Grace 1 was impounded after sailing the long way around Africa from the Middle East to the mouth of the Mediterranean. Shipping experts say it may have been avoiding the more direct route through the Suez Canal, where a big tanker would typically be required to unload part of its cargo into a pipeline to cross, potentially exposing it to seizure.
The EU has not followed the US in imposing broad sanctions against Iran, it has had measures in place since 2011 that prohibit sales of oil to Syria.
1997-built, 156,880 gt Grace 1 is owned by Grace Tankers Ltd care of manager Iships Management Pte Ltd of Singapore. r