Kazakhstan orders oil tankers from Russian shipyard

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 22 -- Russia's Krasnoye Sormovo Shipyard will construct three 13,000-dwt crude tankers for Kazakhstan's KazMorTransFlot (KMTF) shipping company, all to be delivered to the Caspian Sea port of Aktau in 2009-10.

The order follows delivery by Krasnoye Sormovo Shipyard last November of the tanker Zangezur to Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea Shipping Co. for transporting Kazakh oil to the Sangachalsky terminal near Baku for export via the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline.

The Krasnoye Sormovo Shipyard will deliver the first tanker in this year's second half, while the other two vessels will be constructed in the first or second quarter of 2010.

"Such terms of delivery are very important to a new maritime shipping sector of Kazakhstan," KMTF said, referring to plans for the shipment of Kazakh oil across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan.

Kazakhstan signed a memorandum of understanding with several international oil companies in 2007 on using tankers to transport Kazakh crude across the Caspian Sea to the BTC pipeline for exports through Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

Last November, Kazakhstan's state-owned KazMunaiGas (KMG), which owns KMTF and will pay for the new ships, signed an agreement with the State Oil Co. of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) on the main terms of shipping Kazakh crude oil to international markets via Azerbaijan.

KMG said the agreement outlined main terms and principles of the Trans-Caspian project, including an agreement on establishing a joint project company, funding, tariffs and further development steps of the Trans-Caspian system.

Successful implementation of the transportation project would ensure "a reliable shipment of Kazakh crude oil to Azerbaijan across the Caspian Sea onboard tankers and to international markets through BTC pipeline," KMG said.

Initial shipment capacity of the Trans-Caspian system will stand at 500,000 b/d and will eventually rise to 750,000 to 1.2 million b/d, KMG said, without specifying when the transportation system would be launched.

Meanwhile, the Chevron-operated Tengizchevroil (TCO) consortium last October loaded its first 12,000-dwt tanker at the port of Aktau to open the new export route across the Caspian to Baku.

From there, the oil was due to be fed into the 1 million b/d, BP-operated BTC pipeline or carried by rail across Georgia to the Black Sea ports of Kulevi, owned by SOCAR or Batumi, owned by KMG.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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