News / Middle East

    Iraq Seeks Seizure of Kurdistan Oil in Tanker Sitting off Texas Coast

    A still image from video taken by a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft shows the oil tanker Union Kalavryta, which is carrying a cargo of Kurdish crude oil, approaching Galveston, Texas, July 25, 2014.
    A still image from video taken by a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft shows the oil tanker Union Kalavryta, which is carrying a cargo of Kurdish crude oil, approaching Galveston, Texas, July 25, 2014.

    A vessel called United Kalavryta, containing 1 million barrels of crude oil from Kurdistan, is sitting in international waters off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The government of Iraq considers the shipment illegal, because Kurdistan, not Baghdad, approved its sale. A U.S. judge had ordered the ship seized, but it's currently untouchable in international waters.

    The ship full of disputed crude came to Galveston, Texas, about two weeks ago and contacted the U.S. Coast Guard for a pre-arrival safety inspection.
     
    US Coast Guard spokesman Andy Kendrick said the ship was, at that time, some 100 kilometers off the coast.
     
    "We went out to where they were, did our exam, it is basically just a comprehensive exam to check all the equipment -- life-saving equipment, engineering, navigation, the ship's cargo transfer system and safety mechanisms associated with that," said Kendrick.
     
    Kendrick said the ship passed all inspections and was approved to move into a zone used for what is called "lightering," a process whereby smaller vessels transfer the oil to storage tanks on shore since the ship is too large to enter the harbor.
     
    But attorneys representing the government of Iraq contacted all the lightering companies in the Houston-Galveston port areas threatening to sue them if they took part. Baghdad contends that the oil, worth about $100 million on the open market, was illegally transferred from Kurdistan to a port in Turkey.
     
    A federal judge ordered the vessel and its cargo seized. But since it never entered US waters there was no way to enforce that order.
     
    At the U.S. State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki backed Iraq's claim to the petroleum. "Our policy certainly has not changed; we believe that Iraq's energy resources belong to the Iraqi people and certainly have long stated that it needs to go through the Iraqi government."
     
    But Psaki said the US government has no plan to intervene as long as the ship remains outside its jurisdiction.
     
    Joan Mileski, director of the Department of Maritime Administration at Texas A&M University in Galveston, said no government can legally touch a ship at sea.
     
    "We have agreed, by treaty, globally, that we let everybody move in and out of international waters. We all agreed to that, on the planet. So if it sits out in international waters, there is nothing you can do about that," said Mileski.
     
    But she said keeping a ship afloat indefinitely, with no place to unload the cargo is costly.
     
    "I am sure the owner of the ship is annoyed to no end because every day it stays out there he is losing $70,000 to $80,000," she said.

    Mileski said the crew members on the tanker also have rights under international law and the terms of their contracts. At some point, she said, the ship may run out of fuel, food and water.
     
    But to plea for humanitarian aid, she said, the captain or crew will have to communicate with someone on shore.
     
    "If they have the ability to do ship-to-shore phoning, which they probably do, they can, but they don't have things like Internet or cell phones or anything like that because they are too far out," said Mileski.
     
    Not much is known about the owner of the Union Kalavryta, which is flagged in the Marshall Islands. The purchaser of the oil is listed as Talmay Trading, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, with offices in Dubai. This company could be serving as the intermediary for another buyer. There has been no response from the company for comment.
     
    Kurdistan is an autonomous region in Iraq that has on a few occasions shipped oil from its own fields to buyers in other countries. The Kurds argue that disruptions to the Iraqi system have forced them to find alternatives.

     

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: kamaran. from: ghareeb
    August 03, 2014 3:53 AM
    This is not a legal issue, this is political, psaki the white house spokeswomen may be defending the 'view' of the American government. The iraqi federal court and the iraqi federal constituition have taken the side of kurdistan. it is the legal right of kurdistan to have the rights to the sale of this oil.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    August 02, 2014 8:31 AM
    WHY did the US seize the ship with illegal Libyan oil in international waters, and return it to Libya?.... (but the US now says), it can't seize this ship with Iraq illegal oil in international water off the US coast?..... (The answer is obvious isn't it), the Iraq illegal oil is going to American companies, and they'll let it be offloaded at sea in international waters..... CRAZY isn't it?.... how America thinks?

    by: Anonymous
    August 02, 2014 5:00 AM
    So America says the oil can only be processed through the corrupt baghdad government ,and it belongs to the people of iraq ,wake up America ,the people of iraq get none , at least in Kurdistan the people benefit from the oil .

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora