A ship approaches supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar on July 6, 2019. – Iran demanded on July 5, 2019 that Britain immediately release an oil tanker it has detained in Gibraltar, accusing it of acting at the bidding of the United States.
JORGE GUERRERO | AFP | Getty Images
The U.S. has reportedly sought to seize an Iranian supertanker, following news that the Gibraltar government was set to release it from custody.
On July 4, Gibraltar authorities with the help of the British Royal Marines, seized the Grace 1 oil tanker following suspicions it was delivering oil to the Syrian regime — a violation of EU sanctions.
Gibraltar is a U.K. overseas territory at the south west tip of Spain that sits at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.
Tehran claimed the tanker was not headed to Syria and that the seizure was unlawful.
On Thursday, the Gibraltar Chronicle reported that a judge had been due to lift the detention on the ship but an application by the U.S. Department of Justice to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar had delayed the release.
According to the local media outlet, Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said in court that if the U.S. had not intervened, “the ship would have sailed.”
The newspaper added that Gibraltar court is adjourned on the matter until 4 p.m. local/ 10 a.m. ET on Thursday.
The Gibraltar government separately confirmed that the captain and three officers of the Grace 1 had been released from arrest.
On July 19, in an apparent tit-for -tat response, the Iranian military captured the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero close to the Strait of Hormuz. U.K. authorities described the move as “state piracy.”
The ship and crew remain impounded in an Iranian port and any release is seen as unlikely if Grace 1 is not first released from Gibraltar.
Crude oil prices continued to fall Thursday. At 6:30 a.m. ET, the Brent Crude October expiry contract was lower by more than 2% at $58.20 per barrel.