29 July 2014, News Wires – A US judge reportedly has signed an order to seize a cargo of crude from Iraqi Kurdistan aboard a tanker off the coast of Texas in response to an earlier lawsuit filed by the Baghdad government.
In its filing in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Iraq asked for an order allowing the cargo to be seized by the US Marshals Service.
Court filings showed on Tuesday that the order had been granted by Judge Nancy Johnson, who stated the Marshals Service may need to rely on companies in the Galveston Bay area that provide crude offloading services to implement the ruling, according to Reuters.
The United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying 1 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million, arrived off the coast of Texas on Saturday but has yet to unload its disputed cargo.
The ship, which is too large to enter the port of Galveston near Houston, was given clearance by the US Coast Guard on Sunday to transfer its cargo offshore to smaller boats that would deliver it to the US mainland.
Sale of Kurdish oil to a US refinery would infuriate Baghdad, which sees such deals as smuggling.
The US State Department has expressed fears that independent oil sales from Kurdistan could contribute to the break-up of Iraq and warned potential buyers of legal risks. However, it has also made it clear that it will not intervene in a commercial transaction.
AET Offshore Services, a company in Texas hired to unload the tanker, asked in a separate court filing in US district court on Monday if Iraq’s claims were valid.
The court filings did not name the end-buyer of the cargo. AET Offshore is an intermediary.
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 so far this year in Israel.
The semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq has launched shipments of oil exported via a new pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan in defiance of Iraq’s claim that independent sales of the crude are illegal.
Baghdad has threatened legal action against buyers of the crude, which is being exported from the DNO-operated Tawke and Genel Energy-operated Taq Taq fields in Kurdistan.