The UK/Gibraltar has seized the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 , for allegedly breaking EU sanctions and attempting to supply oil to Syria.

On the assumption the seizure is legal and the accusations correct, what can the government actually do with the ship?

If customs seize something from you when entering the UK it’s usually sold or destroyed, does that apply to the ship?

2 Answers 2


This needs to go before a Prize Court, a jurisdiction which in this case will be exercised by the Admiralty Court, a specialised division of the High Court. (The courtroom has two clips into which a ceremonial oar is placed to indicate that the Admiralty Court is in session). As the Wikipedia article says, "A prize court may order the sale or destruction of the seized ship, and the distribution of any proceeds to the captain and crew of the seizing ship [though I suspect they would actually go to the Government these days]. A prize court may also order the return of a seized ship to its owners if the seizure was unlawful".


Sell it and it’s cargo

No doubt there will be legal challenges to this and likely injunctions taken to prevent this while they are resolved. However, assuming the UK government wins these the ship and its cargo will be the property of the UK government. They don’t want to be in the oil or shipping business so they will probably sell.

  • 1
    Would someone actually buy it? I wouldn’t fancy sailing a ship the Iranians deemed rightfully theirs, even if EU said it’s legal. Or would it be sold and broken down for scrap metal?
    – Notts90
    Jul 4, 2019 at 20:53

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