Affected by end-of-month weather delays, Iraqi oil exports from the Basrah Oil Terminal in the Mideast Gulf edged up only to 1.58 million barrels per day for the month of December from November’s postwar record of 1.56 million b/d. A total of 31 cargoes, totaling approximately 49 million barrels, departed in December, according to International Oil Daily calculations.
This figure falls just short of the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization’s (Somo) target of 1.6 million-1.65 million b/d for December.
“There have been weather delays in the past couple of days for vessels berthing and this will soon create a backlog of vessels if it continues like this … presently adverse weather at the terminal,” a local shipping agent said.
The last vessel to depart for December was the US Gulf-bound Atlantic Prosperity for Koch.
The Saga with 1 million bbl and Royal Dutch/Shell’s Murex with 2 million bbl both left on Dec. 29, agents said, along with the Front Fighter, also for Shell. According to terminal reports, there was a backlog of about five vessels in the anchorage area on Dec. 31, with two vessels loading. Some vessels had been at anchorage as long as five days.
With the departure of the Atlantic Prosperity, Iraq has exported a daily average of 1.2 million b/d since Jul. 24, the beginning of regular exports of Basrah Light from what was then the Mina al-Bakr terminal.
Volumes began ramping up in September, at just under 1 million b/d. October averaged about 1.2 million b/d and November 1.57 million b/d.
Iraq has based term sales for the first quarter of 2004 on exports of 1.7 million b/d of Basrah Light.
For January, only a fraction of the vessels needed to take the estimated 1.6 million b/d has been lined up so far. Brokers chalked this up to a seasonal lull in activity approaching the New Year.
In the meantime, shipping rates out of the Mideast Gulf plunged on Dec. 31 after reaching three-year highs earlier in the month. A very large crude carrier heading to the US Gulf was going for Worldscale 85 ($2.42/bbl), down from WS 110 ($3.13/bbl) the previous day.