British Royal Marines and officials in Gibraltar have stopped a supertanker suspected of carrying crude oil to Syria, in breach of European Union sanctions, the government of Gibraltar said.
The Grace 1 vessel was halted early on Thursday by Gibraltar police and customs agencies, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines.
In a statement, the Gibraltar government said it had reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas Refinery in Syria.
“That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria,” Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said. EU sanctions against the government of Syria took effect in May 2011.
“With my consent, our port and law enforcement agencies sought the assistance of the Royal Marines in carrying out this operation.”
The government published regulations on Wednesday to enforce the sanctions against the tanker and its cargo.
Acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Gibraltar detained the supertanker after a request by the United States to Britain.
Spain was looking into the seizure of the ship, and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty as it appears to have happened in Spanish waters, Borrell said. Spain does not recognise the waters around Gibraltar as British.
Refinitiv Eikon mapping indicates the ship sailed from Iran, and if the cargo is confirmed to be Iranian crude, its attempted delivery to Syria could also be a violation of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
The mapping data shows the ship has sailed a longer route around the southern tip of Africa instead of via Egypt’s Suez Canal.
The Grace 1 was documented as loading fuel oil in Iraq in December, although the Iraqi port did not list it as being in port and its tracking system was switched off. The tanker reappeared near Iran’s port of Bandar Assaluyeh fully loaded.
Shipping data shows the ship is a 300,000-tonne Panamanian-flagged tanker managed by Singapore-based IShips Management Pte Ltd.
The EU has imposed sanctions on 277 Syrian officials including government ministers over their role in the “violent repression” of civilians.
It has frozen the assets of some 72 entities and introduced an embargo on Syrian oil, investment restrictions and a freeze on Syrian central bank assets within the EU.
British Royal Marines and officials in Gibraltar have stopped a supertanker suspected of carrying crude oil to Syria, in breach of European Union sanctions, the government of Gibraltar said. The Grace 1 vessel was halted early on Thursday by Gibraltar police and customs agencies, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines.