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The oil tanker loaded with crude from Kurdistan and thought to be headed to the U.S. before it turned off its tracker after exiting the Strait of Gibraltar a week ago has reappeared 300 miles off Halifax, or around 600 miles from Boston, the FT reported on Friday, citing satellite ship tracking data.
The tanker Neverland was thought to be headed for the United States, further buttressing the semiautonomous region’s economic independence as Erbil prepares for a referendum on political independence later this year. An estimated 650,000 barrels of oil, mostly extracted from the Kirkuk field located in Kurdistan, departed the Mediterranean Sea on June 20th, according to Bloomberg data. The oil tanker’s route indicated a dash towards the American East coast, after a three-year hiatus—caused by a dispute with Baghdad over Washington’s true loyalties—had ended the transatlantic shipments.
For more than a week no signal was detected from the oil tanker, but now its appearance off the North American coast could potentially urge Iraq’s central government to challenge in North American courts the oil sales of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Kurdistan’s Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami said on Thursday that Kurdistan had been assured by the buyers of its crude oil that the oil was not headed to the U.S. Hawrami spoke to Reuters just days after the central Iraqi government said it would challenge the legal validity of Kurdish oil exports to the U.S. in American courts in a renewed tension between Baghdad and Erbil over crude oil exports.
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The biggest commodity traders—including Trafigura, Glencore, Vitol, and Petraco—as well as Russia’s Rosneft, are handling Kurdish oil for sale in Europe and Asia, but the Iraqi central government has been opposing sales to North America.
According to Iraq Oil Report, Iraq’s oil ministry believes that Vitol is the buyer and shipper of the crude tanker now heading to Nova Scotia. Iraq’s central government is preparing for legal action in Canada against Vitol and over what a senior ministry official described as “smuggled” oil, Iraq Oil Report reported on Friday.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.