US warns Greece over inbound Iranian VLCC

US warns Greece over inbound Iranian VLCC

The Iranian Adrian Darya 1 VLCC, formerly known as Grace 1, continues to head east through the Mediterranean, bound for the port of Kalamata in Greece, having been allowed to leave Gibraltar yesterday after being detained for seven weeks. The Greek port commenced ship-to-ship operations earlier this year, which the fully laden tanker will need to carry out if, as presumed, it intends to transit the Suez Canal.

Nevertheless, the ship’s destination remains shrouded in mystery. As of last night Greek media was reporting that port authorities in Kalamata had received no formal request from the owner of the tanker to dock at Kalamata.

The United States yesterday warned Greek and other Mediterranean ports that providing assistance to the ship would be interpreted as providing material support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which Washington considers a foreign terrorist organisation. Facilitating the tanker carries potential immigration and criminal consequences, a US State Department official warned.

Officials in Gibraltar on Sunday rejected a US request to seize the tanker. The US warrant claimed the ship, all of the oil aboard, and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture, with the US Justice Department citing what it called violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and bank fraud, money-laundering, and terrorism statutes.

Iranian officials have told the US not to interfere with the VLCC’s passage or risk facing grave consequences. However, sources tell Splash that an assault team made up of US special forces is being readied to possibly seize the vessel.

Iran has not given any indication that following the freeing of the Grace 1 it would let the UK-flagged Stena Impero leave Bandar Abbas where it has been detained since July 19.

Tensions remain high along the Strait of Hormuz where six tankers were attacked in May and June and a number of ships including the Stena Impero were targeted for seizure by Iranian military forces in July.

In related news, Bahrain has agreed to join the US-led effort to protect shipping lanes in the Gulf region.

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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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    steffen
    August 21, 2019 at 3:12 am

    In 1997 the VLCC was operated by the US-Company Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG) named as MERIDIAN LION.
    Later sold to German investors incl. an 8 year timecharter to OSG.