Tanker with Libyan oil to refuel in Singapore enroute to China

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 27 -- The MT Equator tanker, carrying 550,000 bbl of Libyan crude, is due to arrive in Singapore for refueling on Apr. 28, before steaming on to China.

“The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has received pre-arrival notification that the tanker Equator will be calling at the Port of Singapore on Apr. 28,” said a spokesperson.

“Equator will be granted port clearance for entry so long as the vessel meets normal statutory requirements,” the spokesperson said.

The MT Equator, a Suezmax tanker chartered by Geneva-based oil trader Vitol SA, arrived in early April in the rebel-held port of Marsa el-Hariga in eastern Libya, aiming to take on up to 1 million bbl of oil for export (OGJ, Apr. 11, 2011).

The tanker left Marsa el Hariga 3 weeks ago, and is expected to make a brief stop in Singapore to refuel before departing for a Chinese port, either Ningbo or Dalian.

The cargo’s buyer was not immediately clear, with many traders said to be worried about legal complications related to the ownership of oil and international sanctions.

“There are all sorts of title issues. Even with oil from east Libya, you could end up with a legal quagmire if, say, Eni turns around later and says, ‘This was our oil,’” said one trader.

The rebels’ Libyan Transitional National Council, with the help of Qatar, has been able to export a minimal amount of crude and has requested international help to continue overseas shipments.

Meanwhile, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control said transactions involving Qatar Petroleum or Vitol and the TNC are permitted provided the entity in Libya is under the control of the rebel-backed leadership.

OFAC added that anyone dealing with Libyan oil purchases must supply a report to the US government detailing the arrangements within 30 days to ensure the agreement does not violate sanctions imposed on Libya.

OFAC said US persons can request specific authorization to trade in hydrocarbon fuel as well as authorization to support or facilitate the trade in such hydrocarbon fuel, “to the extent that such hydrocarbon fuel is exported under the auspices of the Transitional National Council of Libya.”

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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