U.S. judge signs order to seize Kurdish
oil from tanker off Texas
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[July 29, 2014]
By Terry Wade and Supriya Kurane
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Acting on a request
from the central government in Iraq, a U.S. judge has signed an order
telling the U.S. Marshals Service to seize a cargo of oil from Iraqi
Kurdistan aboard a tanker off the Texas coast, court filings showed on
The United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying some 1 million barrels of
crude worth about $100 million, arrived near Galveston Bay on
Saturday but has yet to unload its disputed cargo. The ship, which
is too large to enter ports near Houston and dock, was given
clearance by the U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday to transfer its cargo
offshore to smaller boats that would deliver it to the U.S.
But Iraq's central government, in a court filing on Monday, laid
claim to the cargo that it says was sold by the regional government
of Kurdistan without permission from Baghdad, which has said such
deals amount to smuggling.
To carry out the order from Magistrate Judge Nancy K. Johnson of the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the Marshals
Service may need to rely on companies that provide crude offloading
The judge's order said the vessel would be allowed free movement
after the cargo is unloaded.
The U.S. State Department has expressed fears that independent oil
sales from Kurdistan could contribute to the breakup of Iraq, has
said the oil belongs to all Iraqis, and warned potential buyers of
But it has also made clear it will not intervene in a commercial
The filings on Monday did not name the end-buyer of the cargo in the
United States. AET Offshore Services, a company in Texas that had
been hired to unload the tanker for the buyer, asked in a separate
court filing whether Iraq's claims were valid.
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Piecemeal oil exports have gone from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey and
Iran by truck in the past, which Baghdad also opposed. But the
opening of a new pipeline to Turkey earlier this year, which could
supply the Kurds with far greater revenues, has met much fiercer
opposition from Baghdad.
One cargo of Kurdish crude was delivered in Houston in May to an
unidentified buyer, and four other cargoes of Kurdish crude have
been delivered this year in Israel.
The case is Ministry of Oil of the Republic of Iraq v. Ministry of
Natural Resources of Kurdistan Regional Governate of Iraq et al,
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 3:14-cv-00249.
(Reporting by Supriya Kurane in Bangalore and Terry Wade in Houston;
Editing by Mark Potter and Dale Hudson)
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