First Foreign Tanker Set to Load Alaska Oil in Three Decades

  • BP-chartered tanker Tianlong Spirit heading to Alaska
  • Rules limiting ANS crude exports eased after U.S. ban lifted

A cargo of Alaska North Slope crude is scheduled to load next week aboard a foreign-flagged tanker for the first time in more than 30 years.

The Bahamas-flagged Tianlong Spirit, currently off the coast of California, is set to load a 136,000-ton cargo around July 25 from Alaska and then head for the Far East, according to ship tracking and fixture data compiled by Bloomberg shows.

"This would be the first time since the mid-1980s that a foreign-flagged ship would have loaded ANS crude for shipment,” David St. Amand, president of Navigistics Consulting in Boxborough, Massachusetts, said by phone.

When Congress scrapped laws restricting most American crude exports, the end of a ban on foreign-flagged tankers shipping crude from Alaska came as part of the package. That opened markets in Asia and Europe to U.S. oil, offering Alaskan producers another destination besides the West Coast.

"BP chartered a foreign flag vessel for the transport of ANS crude for commercial and operational reasons," BP Plc spokeswoman Dawn Patience said in an e-mail. "BP will receive all the needed approvals from the State of Alaska and USCG before sailing."

Since the 40-year ban was lifted late last year, there has been one ANS crude export. BP delivered a roughly 1-million barrel cargo of ANS crude to JX Nippon into Japan in June using a U.S.-flagged tanker.

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