An oil tanker believed to be en route to Syria has been seized by the Royal Marines in Gibraltar on Thursday.
The supertanker was suspected to be transporting oil to the Baniyas oil refinery in Syria, which under EU law would represent a breach of sanctions placed under the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister, said in a recorded statement that “in the early hours of this morning, Gibraltar port and law enforcement agencies, assisted by a detachment of Royal Marines, boarded a supertanker carrying crude oil to Syria.
We have detained the vessel and its cargo”.
“This action arose from information giving the Gibraltar government reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel, Grace 1, was acting in breach of EU sanctions against Syria,” Picardo added.
The chief minister believes that the tanker was transporting crude oil to Syria.
Picardo thanked the Royal Marines, the Royal Gibraltar police and the Gibraltar port authority for securing the supertanker, assuring the people of Gibraltar that the British territory remains safe and committed to upholding the international rules-based order.
The foreign office lauded the action undertaken by the authorities, releasing a statement that read “we welcome this firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria Sanctions regime”.
According to the ministry of defense, 30 royal marine commandos were involved in the operation that took control of the vessel and were under the command of the civil authority and the Gibraltar police services.
The EU imposed a series of sanctions against the Assad regime in response to the heavy crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in 2011 and the ensuing civil war.