Iraq’s oil ministry plans to file legal proceedings in the coming days against a Greek shipping firm for its role in the export of crude oil by the semi autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, to the tune of more than $318 million.
In a statement late Thursday, the ministry said it will submit its filing at the Court of Piraeus in Greece against Marine Management Services for its role in the management of several oil tankers involved in what the ministry considers the illegal export of Iraqi crude.
According to the statement, MMS operates five vessels — the United Leadership, United Emblem, United Kalavrvta, United Carrier and United Dynamic — which have been involved in transporting crude on behalf of the KRG.
“MMS has actively facilitated the KRG’s illegal export scheme, repeatedly ignoring warnings that the crude oil it was carrying does not belong to the KRG,” the statement said.
The oil ministry also accuses the company of declaring false destinations, switching off the ships’ Automatic Identification System transponders and undertaking nighttime ship-to-ship transfers of crude oil on the high seas, all to avoid detection.
MMS did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.
The lawsuit is the latest attempt by the Iraqi central government, which said it will take legal action against any entity that buys crude produced in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
It is to submit a revised claim against the sale of a 1 million-barrel cargo of Kurdish crude currently off the coast of Texas after a US judge rejected its claim to the cargo, which sits on board the United Kalavrvta.
The MMS-managed vessel has been in legal limbo in international waters offshore Galveston for nearly a month. No buyer of the cargo has stepped forward. It is the latest to load from the Turkish port of Ceyhan since May, in defiance of Baghdad’s claim that it, solely, has the right to sell oil produced within its borders.
The KRG has maintained its right to sell crude produced on its land and has stepped up efforts to export and sell Kurdish crude to the international market since early June.
-The Shipping Tribune