Iranian tanker “was not going to Syria”, Iran now claims

Iranian tanker Grace 1 (IMO 9116412), detained by British Royal Marines in Gibraltar late last week, was not headed for Syria, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Sunday in a press conference broadcast live on state TV, although he declined to name where the tanker was going.

Iran had originally accused the UK of acting at the behest of the US because of US sanctions in place against Iran. However, The UK stated that the action, at the request of the Gibraltar authorities, was a result of the EU’s sanctions against Syria, in place since 2011.

“Despite what the government of England is claiming, the target and destination of this tanker wasn’t Syria,” Araqchi said. “The port that they have named in Syria essentially does not have the capacity for such a supertanker. The target was somewhere else. It was passing through international waters through the Strait of Gibraltar and there is no law that allows England to stop this tanker. In our view the stopping of this ship was maritime robbery and we want this tanker to be freed.”

His vague explanation as to why the tanker took the long way round the Cape of Good Hope, rather than travelling via the Suez Canal, was somewhat disingenuous. The view of many observers was that the need to transfer the oil to other carriers for a Suez transit, and the paperwork involved, forced the tanker to travel south. This was also seen as a route less likely to attract attention, although it appears that Grace 1 had been in the sights of the US for some time. Spain claimed that the UK seized the vessel at the request of the US.

Meanwhile, Isle of Man-flagged supertanker Pacific Voyager (IMO 9362889), which halted in the Persian Gulf on Saturday, leading to concerns that Iran might have seized it, has been termed “safe and well” by a British official, speaking to Reuters. Iran also dismissed reports its Revolutionary Guards had seized the vessel.

A Revolutionary Guards commander on Friday had threatened to seize a British ship in retaliation for the capture by Royal Marines of Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar. The Pacific Voyager then stopped in the Gulf en route to Saudi Arabia from Singapore, before resuming its course. Apparently it stopped as part of a routine procedure to adjust its arrival time at its next port, an official at UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) told Reuters.

2009-built, Isle of Man-flagged, 159,943 gt Pacific Voyager is owned by Dynasty Shipping Corp care of manager Mitsui ISK Lines of Tokyo, Japan. ISM manager is MOL Tankship Management Asia of Singapore. It is entered with Japan Club (Tokyo Office in charge) on behalf of Dynasty Shipping Co SA.

1997-built, Panama-flagged, 156,880 gt Grace 1 is owned by Grace Tankers Ltd care of manager Iships Management Pte Ltd of Singapore.