Iranian tanker 'released by authorities in Gibraltar'

Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 sits anchored after it was seized in July by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory. (Reuters)

An Iranian tanker being held captive by British troops in Gibraltar has been released, the territory’s government said on Thursday.

The US had hoped to seize the “Grace 1”, which is carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude, through legal action.

The Supreme Court in Gibraltar had delayed a decision to release the ship after the US Department of Justice made a last-minute application to extend the vessel’s detention.

But the Gibraltar Chronicle reports there was no US application before the court when the hearing resumed on Thursday afternoon.

A British Royal Navy patrol vessel guards the Grace 1 as it sits anchored anchored. (Reuters)

The Grace 1, which is currently carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude, was seized on July 4 in a British Royal Navy operation off Gibraltar.

The vessel was suspected of violating European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.

The supertanker’s seizure sparked an international incident as Iran retaliated by seizing a British vessel in the Strait of Hormuz last month.

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The British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero remains in the custody of the Islamic Republic.

Analysts hope the release of the Grace 1 by Gibraltar will see the Stena Impero similarly freed from detention.

The Grace 1’s captain, an Indian national, and three officers were released from detention early on Thursday.

Iran retaliated for the Grace 1 seizure by taking the British-flagged Stena Impero into custody. (Reuters)

Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo revealed in a statement on Thursday he had met with Iranian officials in London to “de-escalate all aspects of the issues arising from the detention of Grace 1”.

"I made clear that our detention of the vessel related exclusively to the implementation of sanctions against Syria," he said.

On August 13, Picardo said he received a written assurance from Iran government that if released, the destination of Grace 1 would not be an entity that is subject to EU sanctions.

"In light of the assurances we have received, there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the Grace 1," he said.

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