London, August 15: The Indian government on Thursday said all 24 Indian crew members who were onboard the Grace 1 Iranian oil tanker seized in the Strait of Gibraltar by British marines last month, have been released. The Indian crew had been stranded on the Grace 1 since July 4 when the Gibraltar authorities with the help of British marines seized the Iranian tanker accusing Tehran of violating the European Union sanctions.
"Spoke to our High Commission @HCI_London on VLCC Grace 1. They confirmed that all 24 Indian crew aboard VLCC Grace 1 have been released by Gibraltar authorities and are free to return to India," Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan tweeted, tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, among others. US Moves to Block Release of Iranian Vessel in Gibraltar.
This came after Gibraltar's Supreme Court ordered the release of the Grace 1 amid reports that the United States had "applied to seize" the vessel. Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said that since Iran had guaranteed in writing that the Grace 1 "was never destined to an EU sanctioned entity ... there are no longer reasonable grounds to suspect that the detention of the Vessel is required." Iran Seizes 'Foreign Vessel' Smuggling Fuel.
Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan's tweet:
Spoke to our High Commission @HCI_London on VLCC Grace 1. They confirmed all 24 Indian crew aboard VLCC Grace 1 have been released by Gibraltar authorities and are free to return to India. @narendramodi @PMOIndia @AmitShah @DrSJaishankar @MEAIndia @VMBJP
— V. Muraleedharan (@MOS_MEA) August 15, 2019
"I'm grateful and thankful for my release. And I am grateful to everybody in my legal team who have facilitated my release," news agency PTI quoted the Indian Captain of the Grace 1 tanker as saying. Earlier this month, the Ministry of External Affairs said India was in close touch with the Gibraltar port authorities for the release of 24 Indians.
A three-member team from the Indian High Commission met the 24 Indians on board Grace 1 on July 24 and told them the government will take the necessary steps for their release and repatriation. The Gibraltar authorities seized the Grace 1 on suspicion it was carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.
Tehran had denied the accusation and called the seizure "an act of piracy". In retaliation, the oil-rich country had detained British-flagged Stena Impero tanker. The 18 Indians aboard the British vessel are yet to be released.