Neverland Tanker With Disputed Kurdish Oil Reappears Off Malta


LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) - The Neverland tanker has reappeared off the coast of Malta after going off radar near Canada on June 30, when it was chartered by oil trader Vitol carrying Iraqi Kurdish crude oil, Reuters ship-tracking showed on Friday.

The tanker had been heading to eastern Canada to discharge the cargo at the end of June when the Federal Court of Canada issued a seizure order for the cargo at the request of Iraq's oil ministry.

Iraq alleges the cargo was unlawfully misappropriated by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and sold to Vitol. Along with the seizure request made to Canada, the ministry filed a separate claim against Vitol and two subsidiaries for $32.5 million.

The tanker appears empty, according to the draft on the ship tracking system.

Vitol, the world's largest independent oil trader, declined to comment.

Baghdad and the KRG have been locked in long-running battle over the right to export and market crude from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

The KRG began small-scale exports via truck to Turkish ports in 2012 before building a pipeline to Turkey, allowing it to ramp up exports to fill tankers with up to 1 million barrels of oil in mid-2014.

Following the rise of Islamic State and attacks on Iraq's own pipeline to Turkey, tensions over oil exports eased and Baghdad now uses the KRG's pipeline to Turkey.

While Kurdish oil regularly flows to Europe, traders have steered clear of North America since Iraq blocked a 1 million barrel tanker from discharging in the United States in 2014.

Smaller parcels were delivered to the United States prior to that.

(Reporting by Julia Payne; Editing by David Goodman and Adrian Croft)


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