News 05 July 2019

Grace under pressure: Gibraltar government seizes Syria-bound Iranian ship

Gibraltarian law enforcement agencies, and British Royal Marines, have intercepted a super tanker in the Mediterranean which, the government of Gibraltar says, was destined for Syria, with a cargo of crude oil, in breach of European Union sanctions.

In a 4 July statement, the government’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo said, ‘We have reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas Refinery in Syria [a subsidiary of the General Corporation for Refining and Distribution of Petroleum Products, a section of the Syrian ministry of petroleum.]. That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria. Yesterday we published Regulations and a Notice to enforce those sanctions against this vessel and its cargo. I also gave a Direction requiring the Captain of the Port, assisted by the Royal Gibraltar Police and Her Majesty’s Customs to take control of the Grace 1.

‘With my consent, our Port and Law Enforcement agencies sought the assistance of the Royal Marines in carrying out this operation. As the sanctions being enforced are established by the EU, I have written this morning to the Presidents of the European Commission and Council, setting out the details of the sanctions which we have enforced.’

The Panamanian-registered ship appears to be Iranian-owned, and the Iranian government has summoned the UK ambassador to inform him ‘of Iran’s protest over the illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker’.

The BBC reports that ‘Spain’s acting foreign minister Josep Borrell said Spain was studying the circumstances of the action but said it followed “a demand from the US to the UK”.’