Iranian Tanker Showdown Heads To Turkey

The Iranian tanker which had been detained for the past five weeks in Gilbraltar has suddenly switched its ship data to show it is headed to a Turkish port, instead of arriving at waters off southern Greece, as previously planned. 

Reuters has cited real-time ship tracking website MarineTraffic to show the change in the Adrian Darya's (formerly called Grace 1) destination. This after the US State Department threatened that should Greece provide any aid or facilities to the vessel carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil, it would be tantamount to "material support to terrorism". 

The Unites States says the tanker is controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and thus deems any state's interaction with it support of a formally designated terrorist group. There's still an active US seizure warrant for the vessel. 

The Adrian Darya (formerly called Grace 1) supertanker's destination is now southern Turkey. File image.

While the vessel never planned to actually enter a Greek port, listed as the port of Kalamata — especially given the overladen supertanker sits too low in the water — it's been widely reported that a ship-to-ship transfer of the oil was to occur off its southern coast. 

A US Statement Department statement issued Monday had warned Greece's help could be considered “providing material support to a US-designated foreign terrorist organization” — this according to a State Department official who spoke to Reuters.

Tracking data now shows it plans to dock at the southern Turkish port of Mersin on Aug. 31 — an interesting choice given Washington-Ankara relations are at a low point over Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-air defense systems. 

Iran for its part has warned the US and UK not to interfere in the Iranian-flagged vessel's movement, even recently voicing the possibility of sending a military escort to ensure the ship's safe passage. 

Should Turkey allow entry of the Iranian vessel to its port, this will be yet more fuel to the fire of heated tensions, which has also late seen Washington cancel Turkey's F-35 program in a huge blow to the NATO ally's defense industry.