We’ve tracked a number of vessels in the east Mediterranean Sea going from point A to point B, but actually ending up in point C instead because point B was just a distraction for the books. Crude oil tankers switch off their AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponders prior to entering certain areas, or in East Med’s case; certain countries - these being Israel and Syria in particular - as a way of avoiding leaving behind a trail.
To get a better understanding, we resume the tracking of a tanker after a voyage is complete just to see if patterns repeat. Here’s an interesting case we’re currently tracking, the OTTOMAN EQUITY…
we wrote about her supplying 1.062 million barrels of crude oil to Israel on July 14th, 2018. This oil was produced by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq, then sent by pipeline to the maritime export terminal in Ceyhan, Turkey. It then boarded this Turkish vessel at a time when Turkey and Israel have expelled each others ambassadors on account of tensions in the Gaza Strip. The tanker then set sail “FOR ORDERS”, meaning its destination was being withheld. Once it reached southern Israel, she made a sharp turn eastwards towards Ashkelon.
While there, she delivered crude oil over the course of a day or so, but then picked up 870,000 barrels of another grade of crude oil for delivery to Pachi, one of Greece’s largest oil terminals in terms of capacity. If you don’t see it at first, then click here instead. Having finished that leg of the journey, the OTTOMAN EQUITY then continued back to Ceyhan to pick up yet another million barrels for a fresh delivery to Ashkelon, which happened yesterday (July 28th).
In short, you have Iraqi Kurdish oil being exported with constant pending legal threat from Baghdad first to Turkey, which then facilitates international tankers (or in this case: one of their own) in delivering oil in a clandestine manner by switching off their AIS prior to arrival to Israel. Then they transport another oil to a historic adversary; Turkey’s next-door neighbor, Greece.
In a time and region of heightened tensions, oil continues to play the back-channel shuttle diplomat.