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Iran-operated tanker Adrian Darya leaves anchorage at Gibraltar

An Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya 1 oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar on August 18, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The Iran-operated Adrian Darya 1 supertanker, which was recently released by the government of Gibraltar one month after being seized by British marines, has finally left anchorage at the Strait of Gibraltar, slowly moving toward its new destination.

The vessel's coordinates at Marine Traffic website show that the huge tanker has left the Gibraltar territorial waters and is sailing toward an unclear destination in the Mediterranean.

Iran's Ambassador to London Hamid Baeidinejad confirmed in a tweet that the supertanker has started its journey in international waters 45 days after being seized in Gibraltar. 

Britain’s naval forces unlawfully seized the vessel, then known as Grace 1, and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar on July 4 under the pretext that the supertanker had been suspected of carrying crude to Syria in violation of the European Union’s unilateral sanctions against the Arab country. 

Tehran, however, rejected London’s claim that the tanker was heading to Syria and slammed the seizure as “piracy.”

On Thursday, Gibraltar’s government announced it was releasing Grace 1 supertanker despite pressure from the US for the vessel’s continued detainment.

The announcement came just before the US Department of Justice (DOJ) unveiled a warrant for the seizure of the Iran-operated ship.

Gibraltar’s government said on Sunday it has knocked back a request by Washington to detain the supertanker, arguing that "“the EU sanctions regime on Iran is fundamentally different to that of the US."

Earlier this week, Iran announced that it has renamed Grace 1 to Adrian Darya because Panama as the previous flag state of the ship had refused to continue to keep it registered after it was detained in Gibraltar.

Iran's Ambassador to London Hamid Baeidinejad later rejected claims that the move to rename the tanker was aimed at avoiding US sanctions, saying the name change was in line with international maritime rules.

He said that based on maritime regulations, a ship bears the flag of the country where it is registered and therefore, it should have a name chosen by that country.

“Naturally, with the registration of the ship in Iran, a new Iranian name was picked for it,” said the envoy in a tweet on Sunday, reiterating that the tanker is free from any sanctions and its oil cargo belongs to the National Iranian Oil Company.

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