Iraq recommences bunker supplies after 30 year hiatus
London, 21 September (Argus) — The oil ministry in Baghdad announced the symbolic restart of bunker supplying at the Basrah terminal in the Mideast Gulf.
In addition to flagging up the start of a service for tankers loading crude at Basrah, the announcement allows the central government to advertise moves to revive parts of the oil industry other than crude production and, in so doing, try to deflect complaints from provincial governments.
The ministry said a tanker has just taken on bunker fuel and its crude cargo at Basrah and is now on route to Vadinar, India, where Essar has a refinery. It is the first bunkering operation at Basrah for 30 years. Earlier this year, Iraq said bunkering would start in the second half of August.
Iraqi bunkering facilities will be operated by the Iraqi Company for Transport Services and Trade Oil, a joint venture between state-owned tanker company IOTC and Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company. Previously, it was announced that bunkering is also planned for the ports of Khor al-Zubair and Umm Qasr.
The ministry has the lofty ambition of competing with Fujairah, UAE, and Singapore as suppliers of bunker fuel. Iraq is a major producer and exporter of high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO), having exported 60,000 b/d in January-May this year. The government sees the more active participation in the bunkering industry as a way to maximise revenues from HSFO production, especially in view of the falling income from crude exports.
Baghdad is also planning to reboot IOTC, re-establishing Iraq as a major tanker owner. The IOTC fleet was largely destroyed during the US and UK-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
But the pace and direction of travel has brought criticism from some politicians in Basrah province who say the local economy is not benefiting and are advocating measures such as a switch to a cost, insurance, freight (cif) basis for some crude exports to kick start a revival of IOTC.