An oil tanker from Iraqi Kurdistan that was blocked for months from unloading in Texas by a Baghdad legal challenge has sailed back to the Mediterranean and delivered its cargo to Israel, according to trading sources and ship-tracking data.

The United Kalvrvta tanker, carrying 1 million barrels of crude from the semi-autonomous region, became embroiled in a legal dispute in Texas last July after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) looked to ramp up independent oil shipments.

The Iraqi central government challenged the sales, branding them illegal. The KRG protested that independent sales were allowed under Iraq’s constitution.

The tanker spent several months off the coast of Texas after Baghdad tried to have a U.S. court seize the oil. The ship eventually set sail from Texas in late January, shortly after Baghdad and the KRG agreed a temporary deal on oil sales.

Ship-tracking data this week showed the tanker sailing fully-laden towards the Israeli port of Ashkelon before its satellite transponder was turned off on February 22.

It reappeared Friday unladen. Several of the oil tankers that have carried Iraqi Kurdistan crude from Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan have unloaded at Israeli ports, according to ship-tracking data and industry sources.

The KRG has in the past denied selling oil to Israel, which is not recognised by the vast majority of Arab states, including Iraq.
A source in the KRG said that all the oil was being delivered to established international trading companies.

Much of the crude being lifted was sold under prepayment deals last year, the source said, with the Kurds in need of funds after Baghdad cut the region’s budget.

Gulf Keystone Petroleum, a London-listed oil producer in Iraqi Kurdistan, is exploring a potential sale amid lengthy talks with the KRG over delayed payments for oil exports.

Baghdad has withheld many budget payments to the KRG over the oil sales dispute since last January.

Source: Daily Star