Iraqi Oil Flows Again
Iraqi oil exports resumed after a four-day hiatus on January 5th, with one vessel allowed to load crude at the Gulf port of Mina al-Bakr, according to industry sources.
The tanker, which reportedly lifted 2 million barrels of Basrah Light crude, had been waiting at the port since November 29th. Iraq had halted exports for 12 days beginning on November 30th amidst a pricing dispute with the U.N. and its crude customers.
Baghdad has continued to demand that buyers pay a premium into an account outside U.N. control in a direct violation of sanctions.
Buyers had balked at the request, and Iraqi state oil marketer SOMO appears to have waived the surcharge for some customers.
The loading at Mina al-Bakr marks the first since the start of the year, with exports still halted at the Turkish port of Ceyhan, Iraq’s other approved oil export route.
Only one tanker had loaded at Ceyhan during the month of December, and with no vessels waiting at the port, liftings are not expected to resume soon.
Meanwhile, the latest pricing scuffles between Baghdad and the U.N. could see an end on January 5th, with the U.N. sanctions committee expected to approve Iraq’s proposed January prices for shipments of its Kirkuk grade crude to Europe.
The U.N. oil overseers had reportedly deemed that the pricing scheme reflected fair market value, after the sanctions committee had rejected on December 29th SOMO’s previous pricing proposal for being too low.
If the prices are approved, all official selling prices for Iraqi crude will be set for the month. U.N. and Arab diplomats indicated on January 5th that discussions between Baghdad and the U.N. originally planned for January will likely now begin in February.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)