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Iranian VLCC at centre of diplomatic storm with the UK set to depart Gibraltar

Both the crew and the Iranian VLCC arrested in Gibraltar earlier this month are set to depart the British territory on the guarantee that the ship does not head to sanctions-bound Syria.

Iran had called the seizure of the Grace 1 an “act of piracy” and vowed to retaliate against British shipping assets in the Arabian Gulf, a threat that saw one BP Shipping aframax threatened by Iranian military vessels last Thursday.

Gibraltar police said on Friday that four crew members of the Grace 1 were released on bail without charge.

Over the weekend the UK foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, intimated that the tanker would now be free to depart Gibraltar so long as it did not sail to Syria, where the EU has imposed sanctions for the past seven years.

Meanwhile, Panama, where the Grace 1 was registered, has claimed it will withdraw its flag from more vessels that violate sanctions and international legislation. The registry has removed about 60 ships linked to Iran and Syria in recent months.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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