The Iranian oil tanker which has been detained off Gibraltar since early last month is expected to depart this evening, Iran’s ambassador to Britain has said.
“With the arrival of two specialised engineering teams to Gibraltar… the vessel is expected to leave tonight,” Hamid Baeidinejad tweeted.
The Adrian Darya-1 – previously known as the Grace 1 – has been in Gibraltar since 4 July amid speculation that it planned to transport its cargo to Syria, in breach of European Union sanctions.
The detention of the vessel prompted Iran to retaliate by seizing the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, heightening already increased tensions in the region.
Earlier, Iran threatened to dispatch its naval fleet to collect the vessel.
“The era of hit and run is over,” said Iran’s navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi.
He added: “If top authorities ask the navy, we are ready to escort our tanker Adrian,” the Mehr news agency reported.
The authorities in Gibraltar said they had rejected a renewed request from the US to keep the tanker under detention.
It emerged on Saturday that the US had issued a warrant to seize the Adrian Darya-1.
The US said it could seize the vessel, its oil cargo, and almost $1m (£823,000) on the grounds of terrorism and violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
It claimed the tanker had links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it deems a terrorist organisation.
But in a statement earlier today, Gibraltar’s government said US sanctions had no equivalent in the UK or the rest of the EU.
“The EU sanctions regime against Iran… is much narrower than that applicable in the US,” it said.
“The Gibraltar Central Authority is unable seek an Order of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar to provide the restraining assistance required by the United States of America.”
Anchored off Gibraltar, the Adrian Darya-1 is laden with 2.1 million barrels of Iranian light crude oil.
It is expected that a new crew will arrive to sail the tanker to an undisclosed destination.
Pictures of the tanker taken on Sunday showed the new name painted in white on its hull, and the previous name painted over.
It was flying the Iranian flag.