US threats

This forlorn oil tanker has been marooned off the Moroccan coast for three weeks

June 26, 2014
Obsession
Energy Shocks
June 26, 2014

Much hoopla has erupted since Kurdistan sold a $106 million load of crude oil to a buyer in Israel. Here was justice at last for the long-suffering Kurds, forgotten in the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement that divided the Middle East and seemed to give every other major nation its own home, including some nations not previously considered nations.

That is the 50,000-foot view, though, and wholly neglects the fate of the first tanker to set sail with Kurdish oil. (The Israeli sale was the second shipment.) The United Leadership left the Turkish port of Ceyhan on May 22. But a combination of US and Iraqi threats have sent it zig-zagging since without a buyer. The US says that Kurdish oil sales carried out without Baghdad’s permission will worsen Iraq’s political crisis.

After that, the Kurds got smart and sent their tankers on other routes, using diversionary methods to sell their crude. But that has done no good for the United Leadership.

First, the tanker headed to Europe with the idea of selling to Italian and perhaps German refiners. But it made a swift change of course across the Atlantic when no buyer apparently would take the chance of a lawsuit. The ship got some 200 miles (320km) on its way toward the Gulf of Mexico, but then, off the coast of Portugal, made a U-turn when a buyer apparently surfaced in Morocco—the Samir refinery in Mohammedia, according to the Iraq Oil Report (paywall).

On June 3, it reached the north African coast, where it has sat ever since, anchored at sea 31 nautical miles (57km) northwest of Rabat.

At one stage, according to a Bloomberg report, the Kurds attempted to sell the oil at the firesale price of $56 a barrel, a little more than half the going rate. The Kurds have angrily disputed the report, but the impression of desperation has sunk in. The United Leadership also at least temporarily shut off its transponder in a possible attempt to prevent tracking, but its location as of yesterday was available at MarineTraffic.com.

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