The mysterious oil tanker which was thought to be headed for the US has reappeared off Canada after it turned off its tracker shortly after reaching the strait of Gibraltar. Its reappearance was recorded when it reached 300 miles from Helifax, which is roughly 600 miles from Boston. This was reported by the FT after the tracking signal from the ship was restored.
Prior to the time its tracking signal was restored, the oil tanker was thought to have been headed for the US, which raised concerns over Washington’s loyalty to Baghdad. On June the 20th, around 650, 000 barrels of oil was understood to have left the Kurdistan from Kirkuk field. The tanker left the Mediterranean Sea last week and was not seen until yesterday when it resurfaced. Initial reports pertaining to the tanker’s destination suggested that it was headed for the US coast. This was after a dash line on its track indicated that it was headed for the US East coast. Bloomberg oil data reported that the ship may be headed for the American east coast fueling tension between Iraq and Kurdistan.
For at least a week, the tanker’s signal could not be traced. Tension between the Iraq government and Kurdish officials was already high despite the unconfirmed destination of the oil tanker. But, it was calmed down by the Kurd’s oil minister when he spoke to Reuters reporters earlier this week.
This development now means that the Kurd’s will have a big issue to deal with as their oil is potentially headed for the US coast. The tanker which reappeared off the North American coast will undoubtedly prompt Baghdad to act swiftly and challenge the Kurds in American courts over the oil export related deal which bans Kurds from selling oil to the US. There is no doubt that this will renew tensions between Erbil and Baghdad amid the forthcoming referendum.
On Thursday, Kurdish oil minister was assured by the buyers of its oil that no crude oil was headed for the US coast. Ashti Hawrami said that Kurdistan had been assured by its buyers that none of the crude oil was going to be sold to the US. In an interview with journalists, the minister also assured the Iraq government that all the crude oil leaving its oil fields was headed for Europe, Asia and other markets. “Oil from Kurdistan can be sold to any market in the world, except the US and we are committed to making sure we adhere to the laid down regulations regarding the sale of oil.”
All the oil traders that facilitate the sale of oil from Kurdistan always ensure that it is sold to parts of the world other than the US. The list of Kurd’s major oil traders includes Glencore, Vitol, Petraco and Trafigura and Rosneft from Russia. Selling of oil to markets other than the US has been prevented by the Iraq government.
The Iraqi government is already preparing for legal action against the move believed to be orchestrated by Vitol whose ship may be headed for Nova Scotia.