Despite taking the scenic route, which included an unscheduled detention in Gibraltar and a meandering sometime convoluted voyage, the MT Adrian Darya 1 finally reached its disport. Iran has confirmed that the tanker formerly known as MT Grace 1 suspected of trying to deliver Iranian oil to Syria in defiance of EU sanctions has now sold its cargo. Confounding both the EU, UK and the US and to their chagrin
The most recent Satellite images taken last friday, appeared to show the vessel, MT Adrian Darya-1 just off the coast of Syria. Yet Tanker Trackers a vessel tracking service purport to have satellite imagery which shows the vessel is fully laden.
Tehran will be triumphant and perhaps now deal promptly with the little matter of the MT Stena Imperor. Notably the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman would only go as far as to say the ship had delivered its cargo after docking "on the Mediterranean coast". The spokesman did not give the name of the 'Buyer'. The US has been trying to seize the tanker since it was released by Gibraltar. It issued a warrant and blacklisted the vessel, threatening sanctions on any country which offered it aid. The ship had been been tracked sailing east across the Mediterranean. As is now the practise of Iranian crude oil tankers, they periodically go dark by deactivating their transponders, making it more difficult for them to be monitored. Though it would not be difficult to spot if the vessel is fully laden.
The US state department confirmed earlier in the week it offered millions of dollars to the captain of vessel. Brian Hook, head of the department's Iran Action Group, emailed the captain of the MT Adrian Darya 1 in an attempt to entice him to sail it somewhere the US could seize it.
Satellite imaging company Maxar released photographs which purports to show the MT Adrian Darya-1 about two nautical miles off the Syrian port of Tartus on Friday. Following the emergence of these satellite images on Saturday, the UK's Foreign Office called the reports of the ship's presence near Syria "deeply troubling". Yet being in close proximity to Syria is not definitive evidence that the tanker has discharged its cargo, so the Iranian announcement could still be a hoax intended to divert attention.
Gibraltar ,the British overseas territory released the ship - despite strong protests by the US - after it said it received written assurances from Iran that the vessel would not head for countries under EU sanctions. Tehran has subsequently denied it made any such promises about the ship's destination. If what Gibraltar state is true, then it would be a simple matter to publish the said document or make it available for scrutiny. In any event any such document is irrelevant to the extent that it cannot be used to enforce any meaningful sanction against Iran. It is quite likely that Gibraltar would have requested some sort of assurance that the cargo was not going to be delivered to any entity under EU sanctions.
Though Gibraltar and the UK maintain there exists a legal basis for seizing oil tankers which breach EU restrictions. It seems tenous and fraught with political considerations. Not least why the EU are enforcing sanctions on Iran whilst simultaneously breaching their own JCPOA committments.