SEARCHING FOR OIL: Syria Casts Net Wide In Search Of Fuel Deals
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 Reuters
“We made sure that the cargo is not ending up with a Syrian entity. That is what they assured us. We don’t know whether it is allowed or not allowed (to send cargoes to Syria), but (we did this) in order to stay away from this trouble,” he said.
The cargo was sold for around $10.7 million, a premium of about 55 percent above prevailing regional prices.
The deliveries that followed also arrived aboard AMPTC-managed tankers. AMPTC is based in Kuwait and has an office in Cairo, while its largest shareholder is Saudi Arabia.
Its fleet is made up mostly of vessels it is chartering from a Greek shipping company called Benelux.
Depending on the terms of the charter, Benelux’s vessels could be subject to EU law and therefore sanctions.
“Under an ordinary time-charter … the owner would be in the firing line” said Terry O’Regan head of the London International Trade Team at Eversheds, a law firm. “On a bareboat basis (no crew or provisions provided), the owners have no control as the charterers pay monthly for the empty vessel.”
Benelux declined to comment because the terms of its agreement with AMPTC were confidential. A director at the firm said Benelux had not broken EU sanctions and Reuters has no evidence that Benelux was acting improperly.
A spokesman for the EU declined to comment in detail but said enforcement of sanctions was up to the ‘competent authority’ in each member state – in this case, the Greek government. A Greek government official said he was not aware of the case and declined to comment further.
The documents reveal the extent of the Syrian government’s efforts to overcome its growing isolation, having become more dependent than ever on foreign fuel deliveries because its energy infrastructure has been targeted by rebel attacks.
It has been many months since fuel last arrived from Russia, while Venezuela sent its last diesel cargo in May. Iran has supplied only a couple of cargoes this year.
Syria is not a major oil producer, but its output of around 200,000 barrels of oil per day – according to a Syrian official earlier this month – could generate millions of dollars even at a substantial discount to market prices of around $116 a barrel.
Syria’s oil and product exports were largely halted by international sanctions in September 2011. Even firms that are willing to do business in Syria face difficulties processing payments because the Syrian central bank is also blacklisted.