Britain Rejects Iran’s Offer to Swap Seized Tankers

Foreign Secretary says Britain will keep Iran tanker, but wants their own returned

Though it is considered virtually a foregone conclusion that the British-held Iranian tanker Grace 1, seized on July 4 and the Iranian-held British tanker Stena Impero, taken weeks later, will ultimately be traded for one another, British officials continue to insist that no such “swap” could happen under international law.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain won’t consider a swap and is insisting on international law being upheld. At the same time, he’s arguing that if Iran gives Britain back their tanker, they would be accepted as a responsible member of the international community, albeit a member whose tanker Britain is still going to keep.

British officials argue that the seizure of the Grace 1 is legal based on EU sanctions, which forbid Syria buying oil. There is substantial doubt that the EU can actually enforce this on non-member nations.

Iran says the tanker they captured hit a fishing boat and then refused to contact them, which is likely more legally enforceable since it happened in Iranian waters. The Iranians, however, have made clear that swapping tankers is all they really want.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.