Kurd Crude Tanker That U-Turned Leaves Morocco Without Unloading

An oil tanker hauling crude from Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region left Morocco’s territorial waters without unloading, days after the same ship u-turned in the Atlantic Ocean amid a legal challenge relating to its cargo.

“The United Leadership moved into international waters yesterday upon a request from Moroccan authorities,” Nadia Laraki, director general for Agence Nationale des Ports, said by phone today. “The issue is out of our hands. It has not docked and therefore has not unloaded a single cubic meter.”

SOMO, Iraq’s oil-marketing company, said June 1 that buyers should not purchase the tanker’s cargo. Iraq’s oil ministry said May 23 it sought arbitration over Kurdish oil sales from Turkey at the International Chamber of Commerce. The Kurdistan Regional Government says it’s abiding by the Iraqi constitution, according to its website. Two calls to KRG officials today weren’t answered. The ship reached its destination, the KRG said June 3, without specifying where that was.

The tanker is owned by Marine Management Services MC in Piraeus, Greece, a database maintained for the United Nations’s maritime agency shows. Kyriakos Maragoudakis, the company’s operations and marine manager, declined to comment. The ship is about 40 miles off Morocco’s Atlantic coast, having got within five miles of the port of Mohammedia, ship tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“We are monitoring the movements of this tanker and anyone who deals with this oil will be prosecuted,” Iraqi oil ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said by phone from Baghdad today.

Conflict Escalation

Tensions between Iraq and the Kurdish region escalated last month when the KRG began pumping oil through its own pipeline to Ceyhan, the Turkish port in the Mediterranean sea from where ship tracking data show United Leadership loaded. The tanker crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, signaling for the U.S. Gulf, then turned back after about 190 miles. It then sailed to Mohammedia in Morocco, tracking shows.

The KRG estimates its region has about 45 billion barrels of crude reserves. Iraq, which has has about 150 billion barrels without the Kurdish reserves, surpassed Iran in 2012 to become the second biggest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Shipping signals can be wrong because much of the information is entered manually and because not all data are captured.

Disputes about cargoes sometimes delay merchant ships. A tanker called the ETC Isis spent months marooned off Singapore in 2012 as part of a dispute between northern and southern Sudan. Earlier this year, U.S. special forces boarded a tanker shipping crude from eastern Libya that the nation’s government said was illegally shipped.

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