Iranian Navy Commander: Forces ready to escort oil tanker

Iran's Navy Commander said the navy is ready to send a flotilla to escort a supertanker detained for more than a month off Gibraltar back to the country.

Iran Press/Iran news: Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi made the remarks on Sunday at a global maritime event in Tehran.

Khanzadi said, "We have no intention of sending a flotilla to Gibraltar, but if needed, we are ready to do so to escort the Grace 1 back to Iran's territorial waters."

A new crew for Grace 1 arrived in Gibraltar on Sunday, Richard de la Rosa, managing director of the vessel's shipping agent Astralship, said, reiterating his company's intention for the vessel to set sail on Monday.

“The vessel is expected to leave tonight,” envoy Hamid Baeidinejad said on Twitter, adding that two engineering teams had been flown to Gibraltar.

Iran previously said the ship would head to a port in the Mediterranean.

The Grace 1 was carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil when it was seized illegally by Britain's Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar Strait under the pretext that the supertanker had been suspected of carrying crude to Syria in breach of the European Union’s unilateral sanctions against the Arab country.

Tehran rejected the claim that the tanker was heading to Syria, slamming the seizure as “maritime piracy.”

The tanker bore the name Grace 1 and a Panamanian flag when it was detained on July 4. It has since been re-flagged to Iran and its name been changed to Adrian Darya 1.