HOUSTON, March 24 (Reuters) - Two oil tankers are racing toward the southern tip of Argentina in a bid to be the first to ship U.S. crude to Japan since a longstanding ban was lifted late last year.
One of the vessels, a Suezmax booked by Japanese refiner Cosmo Oil, is carrying West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday, indicating for the first time what variety of oil was aboard.
* The refiner loaded approximately 1 million barrels of crude and condensate onto the Agistri from the Galveston Offshore Lightering Area outside of Houston in early March, according to Reuters vessel tracking data
* Cosmo is competing with Japan's TonenGeneral to be the first Japanese company to take receipt of U.S.-produced oil. Tonen purchased its oil from Phillips 66 and is moving its cargo on a Suezmax vessel rather than a Panamax as previously thought
* Tonen's vessel, the Cape Bari, had previously been thought to be delivering the oil to Singapore
* The Agistri and the Cape Bari are currently within a few hundred miles of each other off the coast of Venezuela
* The Cape Bari loaded at Nederland, Texas and is scheduled to arrive at the Kawasaki, Japan on May 8, according to data available on Thomson Reuters Eikon
* The Agristri is also expected to arrive in Japan on May 8, the source said (Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)