The Suezmax oil tanker United Kalavrvta has been motoring in large circles in the Gulf of Mexico for over a month. Today her AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponder was turned off, making her far more difficult to track. The ship has, at least electronically, gone dark.
United Kalavrvta is fully loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil belong to … well, that is a point of contention. The Kurdish oil is claimed by both the government of Iraq in Baghdad and Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq. In July, a US court ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to take control of the cargo, on behalf of the Iraqi government. A few days later, however, the court said it lacked jurisdiction to carry out the seizure as the tanker was about 60 miles offshore. That prompted the Kurds to file a request to vacate the order. The request was granted on Monday.
A tanker near Texas loaded with $100 million of disputed Iraqi Kurdish crude has disappeared from satellite tracking, the latest development in a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse between Baghdad and the Kurds.
The AIS ship tracking system used by the U.S. Coast Guard and Reuters on Thursday showed no known position for the United Kalavrvta, which was carrying 1 million barrels of crude and 95 percent full when it went dark.
Several other tankers carrying disputed crude from Iran or Iraqi Kurdistan have unloaded cargoes after switching off their transponders, which makes their movements hard to track.
Days ago, the partially full Kamari tanker carrying Kurdish crude disappeared from satellite tracking north of Egypt’s Sinai. It reappeared empty two days later near Israel.
And in late July, the tanker United Emblem offloaded part of its cargo of Kurdish crude onto another ship in the South China Sea.