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.
Greg Flakus

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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs