The Supreme Court in Gibraltar decided on Thursday afternoon to release the supertanker Grace 1, which had been detained on 4 July because it was believed that the ship was carrying crude oil to a refinery in Syria and thereby contravening EU sanctions.
The captain and two crew members who had been under arrest were released by the court on Thursday morning, but the expected order to also release the ship was not forthcoming because there had been a last-minute attempt from the US Department of Justice to seize the ship under a new legal procedure on a number of allegations. The court was adjourned until 4pm while the American request was considered.
In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said investigations subsequent to the detention of the supertanker had shown that it had indeed contravened article 14 of the EU regulations on sanctions on Syria. The 2.1 million barrels of crude oil it was carrying were from Iran, and the seizure of the ship caused severe political tensions. The statement explained that after a meeting between the chief minister and Iranian officials, and further discussions, the Gibraltar authorities obtained written confirmation from Iran that the ship, which in the meantime had been re-flagged under the Iranian flag and reinsured, would not travel to an EU-sanctioned destination.
With regard to the US request for seizure, the chief minister said "That is a matter for our independent Mutual Legal Assistance authorities who will make an objective, legal determination of that request for separate proceedings".