x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

US court orders seizure of Kurdish oil near Texas

A US judge, acting on a request from Iraq’s central government, had signed an order telling the US Marshals Service to seize the oil from aboard the United Kalavrvta.

An employee works at Tawke oil fields in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. One cargo of Kurdish crude was delivered in Houston in May to an unidentified buyer, and four other cargoes of Kurdish crude have been delivered this year in Israel.  Hadi Mizban / AP Photo
An employee works at Tawke oil fields in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. One cargo of Kurdish crude was delivered in Houston in May to an unidentified buyer, and four other cargoes of Kurdish crude have been delivered this year in Israel. Hadi Mizban / AP Photo

US port authorities were poised to seize more than a million barrels of Kurdish crude from a tanker off the Texas coast.

Court filings showed early yesterday that a US judge, acting on a request from Iraq’s central government, had signed an order telling the US Marshals Service to seize the oil from aboard the United Kalavrvta.

The tanker left Ceyhan, Turkey on June 23 and arrived near Galveston Bay on Saturday. The US Coast Guard on Sunday cleared the ship to transfer its cargo offshore to smaller boats that would deliver it to the US mainland.

But in a court filing on Monday, Baghdad said that it had not given permission to the Kurdish Regional Government to sell the oil. And that, it said, amounted to smuggling.

The order from the judge, Nancy Johnson, said that the ship would be allowed free movement after the cargo had been unloaded.

The US state department has expressed fears that independent oil sales from Kurdistan could contribute to the breakup of Iraq, and has warned potential buyers of legal risks. But it has also made clear it will not intervene in a commercial transaction.

Piecemeal oil exports have gone from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey and Iran by lorry in the past, which Baghdad opposed. But the opening of a new pipeline to Turkey this year has met much fiercer opposition from Baghdad.

One cargo of Kurdish crude was delivered in Houston in May to an unidentified buyer, and four other cargoes of Kurdish crude have been delivered this year in Israel.

The name of the case is Ministry of Oil of the Republic of Iraq v 1,032,212 Barrels of Crude Oil Aboard the United Kalavrvta and the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Kurdistan Regional Governate of Iraq.

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