LONDON—The Iranian tanker impounded by Gibraltar sailed out of the British overseas territory on Sunday over the objections of the U.S., a Gibraltar official said, raising hopes that Iran would reciprocate and release a British-flagged tanker in the Persian Gulf.
The ship, renamed the Adrian Darya 1 and given an Iranian flag, left Gibraltar’s waters around 11 p.m. local time after the territory’s Justice Ministry rejected a U.S. Justice Department warrant seeking the seizure of the Iranian vessel and its 2.1 million barrels of crude oil. Gibraltar officials said the territory follows the European Union’s laws, not the U.S.’s.
The U.S. warrant and difficulty finding a crew had delayed the ship’s departure. Gibraltar had already decided to release the ship last week after receiving assurances from Iran that the ship’s oil wouldn’t go to Syria. The EU bans oil exports to Syria as part of a sanctions regime against President Bashar al-Assad, but it doesn’t prohibit Iranian oil sales in general, as the U.S. does.
The Adrian Darya’s release is expected to pave the way for Iran to free the British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, which it captured in the Persian Gulf last month on accusations that it broke international maritime rules.
The U.K. and Iran didn’t say if the release of the Iranian tanker was linked to the British-flagged vessel’s freedom. But Iranian officials have previously indicated such a move would help end the Stena Impero’s detention.
The two tankers have become important pieces in the escalating tensions between Iran and the U.S., and by extension allies and partners like the U.K. and Saudi Arabia. The conflict stems from the American withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposing sanctions in a bid to force Tehran to pull back militarily and politically in the Middle East.