Iran outrage after incident in Gibraltar

Crew disembark VLCC Grace 1. Credit: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images

It has been reported that a senior Iranian official has commented that Tehran should retaliate after very large crude carrier (VLCC) Grace 1 was confiscated by Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar on Thursday 4 July.

The commander with Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezai, wrote on twitter, “If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, the relevant authorities will be duty-bound to take reciprocal action and seize a British oil tanker.”

The Gibraltar authorities and the supreme court ruled that the ship would remain in detention for a further 14 days for a full investigation to be carried out. The time will also be used to conclude crew interviews to ascertain whether or not the vessel was indeed attempting to breach sanctions.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that it had “described the UK move as unacceptable” to British Ambassador Rob Macaire and “called for the immediate release of the oil tanker, given that it has been seized at the request of the US”.

The 330 m VLCC, under Panama flag, was detained on suspicion of violation of EU sanctions as it is believed that the vessel was carrying crude oil to Syria. According to the ship’s paperwork onboard, which says that the vessel was loaded in Iraq, tracking data has indicated that this was actually done in Iran.

Further, it has been reported that the VLCC passed through the Strait of Gibraltar as opposed to the more direct route through the Suez Canal, which raised suspicion as regulation would have required the vessel to unload some of its cargo in Suez.