Satellite Images Show Iran Oil Tanker Sought by U.S. Off Syria

The vessel had previously been detained in Gibraltar under suspicion that it was headed toward Syria in violation of European Union sanctions, and was released after Tehran assured it was not

What appears to be the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 off the coast of Tartus, Syria, is pictured in this September 6, 2019 satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies
\ Maxar Technologies/ REUTERS

Satellite images appear to show the once-detained Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 near the Syrian port of Tartus, despite U.S. efforts to seize the vessel. 

Images obtained by The Associated Press early Saturday from Maxar Technologies showed the vessel there.

Iranian officials have not acknowledged the ship went to Syria. The ship turned off its Automatic Identification System late Monday.

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The new images matched a black-and-white image earlier tweeted by John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser.

Bolton had tweeted: "Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 wasn't headed to #Syria is in denial."

The vessel is at the center of a dispute between Tehran and Western powers. The tanker, which is loaded with Iranian crude oil worth some $130 million, sent its last signal giving its position between Cyprus and Syria sailing north at 15:53 GMT on Monday, the data showed.

The vessel, formerly named Grace 1, was detained by British Royal Marine commandos off Gibraltar on July 4 as it was suspected to be en route to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

Two weeks later, Iran in retaliation seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz leading into the Gulf.

Gibraltar released the Iranian vessel on August 15 after receiving formal written assurances from Tehran that the ship would not discharge its 2.1 million barrels of oil in Syria.

However, shipping sources say the tanker is likely to try to conduct a ship-to-ship transfer with another vessel for part of its cargo after Iran said a sale had been concluded.