* Tanker was anchored off Japan since Feb. 14-sources
* Proceeds will be held by court until dispute resolved
* S.Sudan minister says will pursue buyers of “our oil” (Adds background, details of court case, quote from S.Sudan govt spokesman)
By Emma Farge
LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Oil trader Trafigura said on Monday that a tanker carrying disputed Sudanese oil has received permission from an English court to deliver the contents to its destination and that proceeds will be held by the court until ownership is established.
The 600,000 barrel tanker, the Ratna Shradha, has been stranded off Japan for the past week waiting permission to dock because of uncertainty surrounding ownership of the oil, shipping and traders sources said.
Reuters revealed earlier this month that Geneva-based Trafigura, the world’s third largest oil trader, bought oil which the South Sudanese government claims was seized by its northern neighbour and former civil war foe the two governments will be resolved as quickly as Sudan.
“With respect to the dispute between the governments of The Republic of Sudan and North Sudan over the ownership of crude oil on the Ratna Shradha, we can confirm that the English court has ordered that delivery can be made, and that the court will hold all proceeds related to the cargo until ownership is legally established,” the company said in an emailed statement.
“We hope that the entire matter between the two governments will be resolved as quickly as possible.”
The tanker’s owner Chambal Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd. submitted the case to a British commercial court on February 15, a court official told Reuters, after questions over the legal ownership emerged.
The defendants in the case are listed as the Republic of Sudan, the Republic of South Sudan and Union de Banques Arabes et Francaises, the official added.
Landlocked, war-ravaged South Sudan must pump its oil to the Red Sea via a pipeline across Sudan to Port Sudan to earn oil revenues which account for 98 percent of the seven-month-old country’s income.
The Ratna Shradha is one of at least three tankers forming part of some $815 million in oil revenues that South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir accused Sudan of “looting” and which the government in Khartoum said provided compensation for unpaid transit fees.
It is not yet clear if the other disputed cargoes have been sold.
“The Ministry of Justice has already issued a legal notice internationally that any oil that is seized by the Republic of Sudan is stolen property of the Republic of South Sudan,” government spokesman for South Sudan Barnaba Marial Benjamin told Reuters by telephone on Monday.
“We are pursuing anybody who has taken our oil, which the Sudan government is trying to sell,” he added.
Sudan has confiscated more than 6 million barrels of South Sudan’s oil since December due to the row over oil transit fees, a South Sudanese official said last week. (Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Hez Holland in Juba; Editing by William Hardy)