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SEARCHING FOR OIL: Syria Casts Net Wide In Search Of Fuel Deals

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Syria has been starved of diesel because the U.S. and EU sanctions have cut off its usual suppliers. Critics say outside suppliers may be helping Assad cling to power because they are providing households with basic fuel needs and so preventing a wider humanitarian crisis.

August 25, 2012 4:18 by



The diesel was to be supplied from Malaysia’s state oil firm Petronas, which declined to comment on the deal.

 

MLOS, which has an office in Singapore, confirmed it had entered into a deal to sub-charter the vessel to Aurora Finans in mid-July but denied the fuel was for delivery to Syria.

 

“The agreement for vessel charter and purchase of fuel was initially agreed for deliveries to Thailand,” said MLOS director Michael Liburn in an email.

 

Liburn said the vessel was not authorised for trade outside Asia and that Aurora cancelled the contract in late July when MLOS declined to change the delivery port to Syria.

 

“We are quite happy to provide fuel to Syria as long as the port of delivery is safe and there are no international restrictions,” Liburn said via Skype last week.

 

Aurora Finans Limited was incorporated in 2008 by Companies House – the official British body that registers companies – and is up to date with its accounts.

 

Individuals related to the company are all based in Cyprus and occupy similar positions at other firms registered to the same address.

 

Requests to speak to Aurora’s agents in Malaysia and India, which MLOS said were its counterparties in the deal, went unanswered.

 

THE LEBANESE BROKER

 

Plans to import liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) a fuel used widely in Syrian homes and businesses for cooking and heating were more successful.

 

At least three cargoes, each worth close to $10 million, have been delivered to Syria in recent weeks, with the latest shipment arriving in the port of Banias on Monday.

 

The shipments were brokered by a Lebanese oil firm called Overseas Petroleum Trading (OPT) on behalf of the Syrian oil ministry, according to commercial documents and correspondence reviewed by Reuters.

 

OPT in turn used a private Egyptian broker, Tri-Ocean Energy, to source the products needed and find oil tankers willing to go to Syria.

 

The documents make clear that Tri-Ocean Energy signed deals with OPT to help them buy and sell crude oil and refined oil products.

 

Tri-Ocean Energy denied it had agreements with OPT to trade crude, but confirmed it had agreed to supply OPT with two cargoes of LPG.

 

“We don’t have any information that this cargo has a destination of Syria or Banias,” said Ali Tolba, director of trading at Tri-Ocean Energy, adding delivery had been agreed for Lebanese ports.

 

Tri-Ocean Energy provided contact details for a man who they said worked for OPT and was their contact for the deal. However, when contacted by Reuters, he would not confirm any relation to OPT or answer questions about the deal, asking for Reuters to speak to him at a later date.

 

Of two emails sent to different addresses obtained for OPT, one went unanswered, while the second received the following response: “I don’t understand what you are talking about, so I can’t help you and I can’t reply anymore.”

 

Egyptian and Lebanese firms are not subject to EU or US sanctions, so they are free to enter into agreements with Syria.

 

THE DEAL AND THE SUPPLIERS

 

The three LPG shipments were supplied and delivered by oil shipping firm Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company (AMPTC), according to documents reviewed by Reuters

 

The first shipment of around 10,000 tonnes of LPG product was loaded from storage in international waters in the Mediterranean and delivered to Banias in mid-July.

 

An AMPTC official, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the press, denied the firm had known the cargo was bound for Syria. He said the cargo had been sold to Tri-Ocean Energy, who assured them it was not going to Syria but to a Lebanese broker.



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