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Laboratory tests confirm Grace 1 was carrying crude oil

Johnny Bugeja

Laboratory testing carried out by the Gibraltar Government has confirmed that the supertanker Grace 1 was loaded with crude oil when it was detained last week on suspicion of breaching EU sanctions on Syria, a Gibraltar Government spokesman said.
The results of the testing rule out speculation that the vessel had been carrying fuel oil, the spokesman added.
He told the Chronicle that the tests were "comprehensive" and left no doubt as to the nature of the cargo.
"The results of these tests conclusively prove and confirm the information disseminated last week by the Gibraltar Government and contradict the statements of some commentators from outside the jurisdiction who had speculated that the cargo on the vessel was not crude," the spokesman said, adding that the ship was "loaded to capacity".
Gibraltarian law enforcement agencies, supported by British Royal Marines, intercepted the Grace 1 off Gibraltar when it entered British waters last Thursday to collect supplies.
The Gibraltar Government said it believed the ship was violating EU sanctions by carrying a shipment of crude oil to Syria.
"The Grace 1 was detained last week in Gibraltar when it freely navigated into British Gibraltar territorial waters to a point two miles off the Eastside of Gibraltar, having previously exited the international waters of the Straits of Gibraltar, on a pre-arranged call for provisions and spare parts," the Gibraltar Government spokesman said.
The ship was "well inside BGTW" when it was boarded and remains detained in that area, the spokesman added.
To illustrate that point, the Gibraltar Government issued a screen grab from the Port of Gibraltar's vessel traffic monitoring system taken on the night of detention.

The Gibraltar Government has not commented on the origin of the crude, but Iran has confirmed that it is Iranian crude and has reacted angrily to what it described as an act of piracy.
"Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo. Last I checked, EU was against extraterritoriality. UK's unlawful seizure of a tanker with Iranian oil on behalf of #B_Team is piracy, pure and simple," Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Monday, using 'B team' as a derisory term for the Trump administration.
Spain said last week that the UK had intercepted the ship at the request of the US.
But the Gibraltar Government said there had been no political request and that it had been legally obliged to detain the vessel because of its cargo and suspicions about its final destination, believed to be the Banyas refinery in Syria.
That refinery is owned by the Banyas Oil Refinery Company, which is the subject of EU sanctions under EU Regulation 36/2012. Those sanctions are directly applicable in Gibraltar.
The ship is currently detained off the east side of the Rock and members of its crew are being interviewed as witnesses.
Last Friday, Gibraltar's Supreme Court granted an extension allowing Gibraltarian authorities to detain the ship until July 19.