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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

WHEN WILL THE UN ACT?

INTERTANKO, The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, is daily being contacted by members seeking support and guidance related to the recently introduced port cost tariff for the port of Mina al Bakr, the main outlet for crude oil under the “Oil for Food Program”. The tariff, which was implemented without prior warning on 1 June 2000, stipulates port expenses in the amount of USD 15-18,000 for VLCCs, and that the funds collected will be earmarked for necessary upgrading and maintenance of the terminal. INTERTANKO has ascertained that the Legal Department of the UN Sanctions Committee has termed the levy of port cost in US Dollars or other international currency illegal.

This information has only been received verbally and an official decree in support of this view does not appear to be within reach.

The local agent persists in demanding payment and threatens that refusal of payment will lead to black listing of the ship.  However, to INTERTANKO’s knowledge, no ship has to date been refused cargo or experienced delay at the terminal due to non-payment.  A couple of non-payers have in fact called twice since 1 June but still were able to perform normal loadings. But, there are recent signs that the attitude is hardening against those refusing to pay the demanded port expenses.  One of our members has today been informed that the port authority will refuse to take the vessel into berth, as the vessel owes unpaid port disbursements from a previous voyage.  Tanker owners thus appear to be heading for even more trouble!

One aspect is the commercial side and the payment of fairly moderate port expenses as a safeguard against losing time in a buoyant tanker market.  Another is the safety of the port operations in Mina al Bakr where “port operations are suffering and the tug boats are wrecked so we need to replace them”, according to an Iraqi official.

Safety of transport is one of INTERTANKO’s focal points.  We feel the current situation in Mina al Bakr gives rise to considerable concern on behalf of our members and non-members.  Immediate action is required from the UN to issue the necessary documentation giving once and for all clear advice as to the legality of the new port tariff.

However, voices in favour of the Iraqis collecting port fees as per the introduced tariff are increasingly being heard.  Why not let UN officials monitor that the money accrued actually is spent as per intentions?  The benefits would be: Enhanced safety of port operations, clarified conditions between owner and charterer, and the Worldscale rate system would finally be able to provide rates where the port cost element is reflected.

Our members are quite accustomed to paying port expenses.  The ones asked by the Iraqis are modest - but they are illegal - for the time being.

The UN holds the key to the safety of a major crude terminal and to the final clarification of a cumbersome commercial and political situation.

For further information, please contact:
Gunnar  A. Gnudsen +47 22 12 26 58
e-mail : gunnar.knudsen@intertanko.com