KRG Oil Tanker May Have Unloaded in Mediterranean

Source: Reuters 10/8/2014, Location: Middle East

A tanker carrying some 1 million barrels of Iraqi Kurdish crude appears to have been lightered somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea amid an ownership dispute between Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that had stopped the vessel from delivering its load, according to Reuters tracking data.

The Suezmax vessel United Leadership, which became a symbol of Iraqi Kurdistan's disputed steps to establish independent oil sales, had been sitting off the Moroccan port of Mohammedia for more than three months after Baghdad put pressure on buyers not to take the cargo.

At the end of September, it sailed away from Morocco's northwest coast, signaling a new buyer may have been found for the autonomous region's long-stranded cargo as the KRG continues to ramp up shipments.

The United Leadership was the first tanker to lift Kurdish crude carried to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan on the KRG's new independent pipeline. Since then more than 11 million barrels of Kurdish crude have sailed from that port.

Tracking systems now show the tanker going back to Ceyhan. Its draft reduced to 54 percent, from 95 percent several days ago when it was close to Malta, revealing it must have partially or fully unloaded its cargo onto another vessel at deep sea.

Another Suezmax trapped in the middle of the dispute, the United Kalavrvta, has been moored off the Texas coast since July after Baghdad filed lawsuits to block it from delivering.

Baghdad says the shipments from Iraqi Kurdistan are illegal, but the KRG argues they are allowed under the country's constitution.

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