The British Royal Marines and law enforcement officials have detained in Gibraltar a giant oil tanker suspected of carrying crude oil to Syria in violation of European Union (EU) sanctions.
The Gibraltar government said on Thursday, July 4th, in a statement that it had good reasons to believe that the Grace 1 tanker was carrying a shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria.
"The refinery is owned by an entity subject to EU sanctions on Syria," said Gibraltar’s Prime Minister Fabian Picardo.
"With my consent, our port and law enforcement agencies sought the assistance of the Royal Marines in carrying out this operation," Picardo added.
The Gibraltar government published regulations on Wednesday, July 3rd, that would allow sanctions to be imposed on the ship and its cargo.
According to Reuters, EU sanctions against the government of Syria took effect in May 2011, shortly after the start of President Bashar al-Assad's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators that mushroomed into a protracted civil war.
According to data from Refinitiv Eikon, the ship sailed from Iran. If the shipment is confirmed to be Iranian, the attempt to deliver it to Syria may also be a violation of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
The data also showed that the ship cut a longer route through the southern tip of Africa rather than crossing the Suez Canal in Egypt.
It was documented that Grace 1 would carry fuel oil in Iraq in December, although the Iraqi port did not record its stop and the tracking systems were closed. The tanker reappeared near the Iranian port of Bandar Assaluyeh, fully loaded.
Cargo data show that the tanker's capacity is 300,000 tons and it flies the Panamanian flag and is operated by Singapore-based Iship Management.