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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    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.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.