The United States on Thursday threatened to revoke visa provisions of the crew members of Iranian tanker Grace 1. The seized tanker was given the green flag to return to Iran after the Gibraltar court ruled in favour of the ship's release.
Washington expressed its disappointment with the United Kingdom for going ahead with the release of the tanker, which was detained by Gibraltar authorities in July, for violating European Union sanctions by carrying oil to Syria.
"Crewmembers of vessels assisting the IRGC (Revolutionary Guard Corps) by transporting oil from Iran may be ineligible for visas or admission to the United States under the terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds," said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
The statement came on the same day Gibraltar's Supreme Court ruled in favour of releasing the detained Iranian tanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil. The court asked for a formal agreement from Iran that said that the ship would not discharge its cargo in Syria.
"Indeed, this assurance has the effect of ensuring that we have deprived the Assad regime in Syria of more than $140-million of valuable crude oil In light of the assurances we have received, there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the Grace 1 in order to ensure compliance with the EU Sanctions Regulation," said Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar.
The US had unsuccessfully attempted a last-minute legal bid to detain the ship. The vessel that has as many as 24 Indian crew members is preparing to sail and being reflagged and refuelled, Iranian media said on Friday.
"Based on the owner's request, the oil tanker Grace 1 will depart for the Mediterranean after being reflagged under the Iranian flag and renamed Adrian Darya after preparing for the journey," the deputy head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation, Jalil Eslami told Iranian media.
"The 25-member crew will start their journey after preparations, including refuelling," he added.
Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan on Thursday confirmed the release of the Indian crew members on board the tanker and said that they have been released and are "free to return to India".
The external affairs ministry had earlier said that the Indian sailors were granted consular access by the UK and were in regular contact with their families.
Tensions between Iran and the West escalated as the Iranian Revolutionary guards seized a British tanker, the Stena Impero in retaliation, two weeks later in the strategic Strait of Hormuz region.
The US imposed sanctions against Iran after the country withdrew from the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal last year.
Iran has responded to the sanctions by suspending itself from some of its commitments by deciding to violate the nuclear stockpile limit.