Iranian Tanker Pursued by U.S. Appears Near Syrian Port, AP Says

(Bloomberg) -- An Iranian oil tanker that the U.S. is trying to seize is near the Syrian port of Tartus, the Associated Press reported, citing satellite images.

The Adrian Darya 1 had disappeared earlier this week from satellite-tracking not far from Syria’s coast, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It is thought to have 2 million barrels of oil on board.

Previously called Grace 1, the vessel was seized near Gibraltar by the U.K. military and local police in early July on suspicion of supplying crude to Syria. The British overseas territory released the carrier last month, saying it received assurances the vessel wouldn’t sail to any entity sanctioned by the European Union.

The U.S., which has its own sanctions on Iran, issued a warrant to seize the vessel in mid-August, shortly after Gibraltar announced the tanker was free to leave. The U.S. Department of Justice alleged unlawful use of the U.S. financial system to support and finance the sale of oil by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to Syria.

Oil posted the biggest weekly gain since July, with futures in New York rising to $56.52 a barrel.

A U.S. State Department official is reported to have approached the captain of Adrian Darya 1 by email in August with the offer of several million dollars in exchange for steering the vessel to a location where the U.S. can impound it.

Since its release, the tanker had been slowly moving through the Mediterranean Sea and vanished from satellite-tracking near Syria’s coast after a signal received on Monday afternoon. The most likely scenario for the Adrian Darya 1 has always seemed to be that it would transfer its cargo to smaller vessels controlled by Iran in the eastern Mediterranean for delivery to Syria. It’s unclear if the U.S. would take any action against other vessels that receive cargo from the tanker.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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