ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The fifth cargo of crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan was loading at Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan on Thursday and was scheduled to set sail on Friday, Turkish energy officials said.
The cargo was the first loading of Iraqi Kurdish oil from Ceyhan in over a month, as the central government in Baghdad, locked in a bitter dispute with the Kurds over oil exports, moved to block the unloading of Kurdish oil-laden vessels in foreign ports.
The Suezmax tanker Kamari arrived at the port late on Wednesday, a shipping source said. It will be carrying one million barrels of crude oil.
“Initially there was no programme for loading today. Then we received a tanker and started to load swiftly,” one Turkish official said, adding that he had no knowledge of the buyer.
So far, most of the buyers of Kurdish oil remain anonymous while as the intensifying legal and political struggle with Baghdad could deter potential buyers, analysts say.
Arguing all oil sales outside its control are illegal, Baghdad this week tried to get a Texas court to seize 1 million barrels of oil aboard the United Kalavrvta tanker, which has been anchored off the port of Galveston since the weekend.
But after a U.S. judge on Tuesday said she lacked jurisdiction given the ship’s distance from the shore, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) hit back at Baghdad, filing a letter with the Texas court arguing its sales are allowed under the Iraqi constitution.
Arbil has begun selling its oil via a new pipeline through Turkey in May, but so far has only successfully sold and delivered one tanker filled with oil from the line.
Unable to export its oil on a routine basis, Iraqi Kurdistan was forced to halt pumping in its oil pipeline via Turkey, as the storage tanks at Ceyhan have been backed up and at capacity.
Baghdad has cut the KRG’s budget since the start of the year over the oil sales dispute, heaping pressure on the semi-autonomous enclave of 5 million that has enjoyed relative stability since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Reporting by Orhan Coskun, Humeyra Pamuk and Julia Payne in London; Editing by Daren Butler and William Hardy