Iran tanker Grace 1 shifts position but still at anchor off Gibraltar

A view of the Grace 1 supertanker is seen backdropped by Gibraltar's Rock, as it stands at anchor in the British territory of Gibraltar on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. (AP)
Updated 16 August 2019

Iran tanker Grace 1 shifts position but still at anchor off Gibraltar

  • The tanker was renamed Adrian Darya and reflagged under the Iranian flag
  • The Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marine commandos in darkness at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4

GIBRALTAR: An Iranian tanker caught in the standoff between Tehran and the West shifted position on Friday but its anchor was still down off Gibraltar and it was unclear if it was ready to set sail, a Reuters reporter said.
Gibraltar authorities could not be reached for comment.
The Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marines at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran.
Gibraltar lifted the detention order on Thursday but the vessel's fate was further complicated by the United States, which made a last-ditch legal appeal to hold it.
A Reuters reporter in Gibraltar said the vessel appeared to be moving and more smoke could be seen coming from the funnel than in recent days. However it was not clear that the ship was actually leaving and it still appeared to be at anchor.
Refinitiv data did not show the vessel moving.
Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said earlier that the tanker was free to leave as soon as it had organised its logistics.
"Could be today, could be tomorrow," Picardo told BBC Radio.
Washington has attempted to detain the Grace 1 on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which it has designated a terrorist organization.
Asked about Washington's position, Picardo said that would be subject to the jurisdiction of Gibraltar's Supreme Court.
"It could go back to the court absolutely."
The last-minute US intervention was the latest twist in a saga that started in the early hours of July 4, when British Royal Marines abseiled onto the Grace 1 to impound the ship.
That kicked off a sequence of events that saw Tehran seize a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf two weeks later, heightening tension on a vital international oil shipping route.
That tanker, the Stena Impero, is still detained.
The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States last year pulled out of an international agreement to curb Iran's nuclear programme, and reimposed economic sanctions.
Gibraltar said it had found evidence confirming the Grace 1 was carrying its cargo - 2.1 million barrels of oil - to the Baniyas refinery in Syria. Tehran denies that.
Gibraltar Chief Minister Picardo said on Thursday he had agreed to release the ship after receiving written assurances that the cargo would not go to Syria. Tehran also denied that it had made any commitments to secure the release of the tanker.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned all mariners that if they crewed a ship affiliated to the Revolutionary Guard, they would jeopardise their ability to enter the United States. "#NotWorthIt," he tweeted.
Calling the US attempt to block the tanker "piracy" and denying any commitments had been made to secure its release, Iranian officials have said Grace 1 would sail shortly after the 25-member crew made preparations including refuelling.
"Based on the owner's request, the oil tanker Grace 1 will depart for the Mediterranean after being reflagged under the Iranian flag and renamed Adrian Darya after preparing for the journey," Iranian state television quoted Jalil Eslami, deputy head of the country's Ports and Maritime Organisation, as saying.

Britain said on Thursday Iran must abide by assurances it had given that the Grace 1 tanker would not travel to Syria, and said it would not allow Iran or anyone to bypass European Union sanctions.
“We note the Government of Gibraltar has received assurances from Iran that the Grace 1 will not proceed to Syria. Iran must abide by the assurances they have provided,” a British foreign office spokesman said in a statement.
“We will not stand by and allow Iran – or anyone – to bypass vital EU sanctions on a regime that has deployed chemical weapons against its own people.”
“There is no comparison or linkage between Iran's unacceptable and illegal seizure of, and attacks on, commercial shipping vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and the enforcement of EU Syria sanctions by the Government of Gibraltar.”
A spokesman for the Stena Impero tanker, seized by Iran last month, said the situation remained the same with the Stena Impero and that the company awaited further developments from the United Kingdom and Iran.
Earlier on Thursday, the Gibraltar government confirmed earlier media reports that the US Department of Justice had sought to extend the detention of the oil tanker Grace 1, prompting the Supreme Court in the territory to adjourn a scheduled decision on whether to release the ship until later in the day.

“The U.S. Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations, which are now being considered,” the Gibraltar government said in a statement, adding that the matter would be reviewed by the court at 4 p.m. local time.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement that the “investigations conducted around the Grace 1 are a matter for the government of Gibraltar” and that it could not comment further as the investigation was ongoing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office said that Iran was discussed during the UK leader’s meeting with Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton earlier in the week, though no details were released on the talks.

 

 


Almost 80,000 homes still without power a week after Japan typhoon

Updated 4 min 53 sec ago

Almost 80,000 homes still without power a week after Japan typhoon

  • Typhoon Faxai powered into the Tokyo region in the early hours of Monday last week
  • The national weather agency Monday issued new warnings for heavy rain in Chiba
TOKYO: Almost 80,000 homes are still without power a week after a powerful typhoon battered eastern Japan, authorities said Monday, with sustained heavy rain prompting evacuation orders and hampering recovery efforts.
Typhoon Faxai powered into the Tokyo region in the early hours of Monday last week, packing record winds that brought down power lines, disrupted Rugby World Cup preparations and prompted the government to order tens of thousands of people to leave their homes.
The storm killed two people, with at least three elderly later confirmed dead due to heatstroke as temperatures soared to above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in areas affected by a post-typhoon blackout.
Some 78,700 households were still without power in Chiba, southeast of the capital, Tokyo Electric Co. (TEPCO) spokesman Naoya Kondo said.
“A complete recovery is still unlikely until September 27 as we have difficulties in mountain areas,” he added.
Some 16,700 households were also without water because several water purification plants had no power, a local official said.
With help from the military, officials were dispatching water tanker trucks to the affected areas.
The national weather agency Monday issued new warnings for heavy rain in Chiba, while local authorities issued non-compulsory evacuation orders to 46,300 people due to the risk of landslides.
“A delay in recovery work is expected due to heavy rain,” said Kenta Hirano, a disaster management official in Futtsu in Chiba, where more than 1,000 houses were damaged by the typhoon.
Local media showed residents in Chiba hurriedly covering broken roofs with blue tarps.
“We are at a loss as we can’t live there again,” a 66-year-old man told public broadcaster NHK after the typhoon ripped off the roof of his house.