Gibraltar denied an order by the United States to seize the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 on Sunday, citing differences in sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. Photo by A.Carrasco Ragel/EPA-EFE
Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Gibraltar authorities released an Iranian oil tanker seized by Britain over 40 days ago after rejecting a request by the United States to continue detaining the vessel.
The Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1, left British waters near the Rock of Gibraltar at around 11:30 p.m., the Gibraltar Chronicle reported.
"At this juncture, we can confirm that finally ... the Iranian oil tanker began to move toward international waters," said Iran's Ambassador to the UK Hamid Baeidinejad via Twitter. "The overwhelming attention of global and regional politicians and public opinion reflects the important political, international and legal consequences of the actions taken in these few days."
Earlier, he said the vessel was expected to depart that night after having worked "round-the-clock" to carry out procedures and secure a crew.
He also said the ship's name was changed due to maritime regulations as it was now registered in Iran.
The tanker set sail shortly after a Gibraltar court ruled that it could not seek an order to continue to restrain it, citing differences between sanctions placed on Iran by U.S. President Donald Trump and those authorized in the European Union.
"The EU sanctions regime against Iran -- which is applicable in Gibraltar -- is much narrower than that applicable in the U.S.," Gibraltar's government said in a statement.
On Friday, the United States unsealed a seizure warrant and forfeiture complaint against the tanker alleging that all the crude oil on the vessel and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture, alleging it attempted to "access the U.S. financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran," in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Iran is also accused of bank fraud, money laundering and terrorism due to Iran's oil industry's involvement in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is designated a terrorist organization in the United States, but not in Gibraltar, Britain or the EU generally.
The British originally seized the ship over claims that it violated EU sanctions by transporting oil to Syria, but on Thursday struck a deal to return the tanker on the condition it not transport the 2.1 million barrels of crude oil on board to Syria.
Further complicating the status of the ship, the captain and crew quit, requiring the ship's owner to provide replacements.