Iranian navy commander: Forces ready to escort oil tanker

FNA – Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Sunday that his forces are ready to escort the newly released oil tanker of the country if ordered by officials.

Rear Admiral Khanzadi announced today that Iran does not intend to escort Grace 1 but if needed it is ready to safeguard the oil tanker, which was illegally detained by the UK since early July and was released on Thursday, to the territorial waters of his country.

He said that Army is ready to dispatch a naval fleet to escort the released oil tanker back to Iranian waters whenever Iranian officials require.

Iranian supertanker Grace 1 was released from detention by Gibraltar authorities on Thursday, shunning a Washington request to transfer the seized ship to the US jurisdiction based on a mutual legal assistance agreement between the two sides.

In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized the Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, claiming that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria “in violation” of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus. Washington had applauded the move, hailing it as a sign that Europe is on board with the US unilateral sanctions against Tehran.

The decision to release the ship was taken just hours after the Gibraltar government confirmed that the United States launched a separate last-minute legal move to detain the vessel on a number of allegations.

But, Chief Justice Anthony Dudley stated that there was no US application currently before the court.

“That’s not before me,” he said, adding, “There are no applications in relation to the US letters of request (for mutual legal assistance).”

The Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper wrote it is not clear when the ship will sail from Gibraltar or whether the United States will formally apply to the court to detain it before that happens.

Iran had condemned the “illegal move” of London and described it as “tantamount to piracy”. Tehran accused the UK of doing Washington’s bidding and helping the US attempt to stifle the Islamic Republic’s oil exports, rejecting London’s claim that the supertanker was carrying crude for Syria.

The recent moves by foreign powers in the Middle East such as US sanctions on Tehran’s oil, UK seizure of Iranian supertanker, as well as, “sabotage operations” on oil ships have intensified the turmoil in the region and the turmoil in the international energy market, affecting global crude prices in recent months.