FILE: The detour was taken in what could have been an attempt to avoid scrutiny and sneak thousands of tons of crude oil to Syria
CAIRO – 5 July 2019: A recent report has revealed an Iranian tanker seized by British authorities on Thursday had taken a detour of thousands of miles around Africa.
The detour was taken in what could have been an attempt to avoid scrutiny and sneak thousands of tons of crude oil to Syria.
A report by Business Insider said authorities in the British territory of Gibraltar seized the Grace 1 tanker on Thursday, saying they thought it was taking its cargo to a government-owned oil refinery in Syria, an act that would violate European Union sanctions.
According to Reuters and the Associated Press, tracking data showed that the ship took an unusual route to the Mediterranean.
Leaving Iran, it traveled all the way around Africa before being stopped at the Mediterranean's western entrance. Had it traveled all the way to Syria, the journey would have been about 14,000 miles, according to the shipping-route website Sea Distances.
That journey would have been just over 4,000 miles, according to Sea Distances.
A likely reason for the odd route could be the lesser chance of being caught going the long way.
A maritime intelligence source told Reuters that the ship may have avoided the Suez Canal because that route involved unloading its cargo, where it would run the risk of being caught and seized by Egyptian authorities.
This is what this route would have looked like:
The European Union has banned oil shipments to Syria since 2011 as part of sanctions over President Bashar Assad's treatment of civilians.
Iran says its ship has been illegally detained, and it has summoned the UK ambassador. The UK central government and the US praised Gibraltar's action.
Reuters said it had seen shipping data suggesting the ship was loaded with oil in Iran, though the ship's documents say it was loaded in Iraq.
The ship was recently tracked in Iran's Bandar Assalyeh port, according to Reuters.
An analyst at Kpler, a London-based energy-data firm, told Reuters the ship loaded Iranian crude oil at Iran's Kharg Island port in mid-April.
Spain's caretaker foreign minister said the tanker was stopped at the request of the US, which has seen tensions increase with Iran in recent weeks as it tightens sanctions around Iran's oil exports.