GIBRALTAR (Reuters) – An Iranian tanker caught in a stand-off between Tehran and the West has raised an Iranian flag and has had a new name painted on its side, Reuters images of the stationary vessel filmed off Gibraltar showed on Sunday.
British Royal Marines seized the vessel in Gibraltar in July on suspicion that it was carrying oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran, in violation of European Union sanctions.
Video footage and photographs showed the tanker flying the red, green and white flag of Iran and bearing the new name of ‘Adrian Darya-1’ painted in white on its hull. Its previous name, ‘Grace 1’, had been painted over. The vessel’s anchor was still down.
The Grace 1 had originally flown the Panamian flag but Panama’s Maritime Authority said in July that the vessel had been de-listed after an alert that indicated the ship had participated in or was linked to terrorism financing.
Gibraltar lifted a detention order on the vessel on Thursday but its fate was further complicated by the United States, which made a last-ditch legal appeal to hold it.
The initial impounding of the Grace 1 kicked off a sequence of events that saw Tehran seize a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf two weeks later, heightening tension on a vital international oil shipping route.
That tanker, the Stena Impero, is still detained.
The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States last year pulled out of an international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, and reimposed economic sanctions.
Reporting by Marco Trujillo and Jon Nazca; Writing by William James in London; Editing by Gareth Jones
Image: An Iranian flag flies at Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, before being named as Grace 1, as it sits anchored after the Supreme Court of the British territory lifted its detention order, in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain, August 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca