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Kuwait oil exports move as strike continues

Kuwait, October 11, 2011

Exports of crude oil and oil products out of Kuwait are moving normally and all customer commitments will be met, a Kuwaiti oil industry spokesman said on Tuesday, as the customs union pledged to continue a strike that stranded sea tanker traffic on Monday.

'Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC) reassures its customers about securing their crude, oil product needs,' Sheikh Talal Al-Khaled Al-Sabah, spokesman for the Opec producer's oil sector, said in a statement to Reuters.

Oil shipments out of the major producer were halted on Monday after the customs union went on strike, blocking the clearance process necessary for vessels to depart and discharge.

But on Tuesday, shipping sources said Kuwait had secured port clearance for stranded oil ships and at least four tankers departed from Mina Al Ahmadi port, which handles the bulk of the country's oil exports. Neither the shipping sources nor Sheikh Talal clarified how the clearance for the tankers were secured.

'We got the papers for four tankers yesterday and we hope to get clearance for one or two more tankers today as well,' one shipping source said.     

The other shipping source confirmed there was at least one more oil tanker at Mind Al Ahmadi port, waiting for clearance to depart.      

Oil tankers loading out of single point mooring, which are used for bigger vessels, are able to get customs clearance as agents are doing it on behalf of customs officers, an Asia-based trader said.

He added that vessels loading out of jetty, especially product tankers, were unable to get customs clearance as they require a customs officer to go onboard.

Kuwait also has operational oil export terminals at Mina Abdullah, Shuaiba, and at Mina Saud, otherwise known as Mina al-Zour.

About 3,000 of Kuwait customs employees entered into the second day of strike on Tuesday, and vowed to continue until their demands are met.

'We are still on total strike, especially after the government's statement which totally ignored us,' Ahmed Al-Enezi, the head of the customs employees union, told Reuters.     

Kuwait's cabinet said on Tuesday that it had appointed a committee headed by the country's interior minister to take all necessary measures to run all state businesses that may be impacted by the strike, state news agency Kuna reported. It did not say the government would negotiate with the customs union.

The country is currently witnessing a wave of strikes by many government employees, after the cabinet approved earlier this month better employment conditions for oil sector workers.

In late September, Kuwaiti Central Bank employees held a demonstration while employees of the Kuwait Stock Exchange  agreed to delay a planned strike and gave authorities three weeks to meet their demands.

Investors kept a close eye on the strike and were watching for any supply disruption from Kuwait, but the physical market impact was largely muted.

Refiners in Asia have not reported any major delays or disruptions in their shipments. A trader with an Asian shipping company which has a vessel at a Kuwaiti port said he hoped the government and customs would reach an agreement soon.

'What measures we will take depend on situation of the strike. There is no official announcement when the strike will complete, we have to wait now,' a trader at a northeast Asia refiner which has a fully loaded Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) at the port said. - Reuters




Tags: Kuwait | KPC | shipping | oil tankers | customs union strike |

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