Oil smuggling on the rise

27 September 2002

The number of vessels attempting to smuggle oil out of Iraq via the Arabian Gulf has quadrupled over the last six months. Between June and August, patrol boats from the US Fifth Fleet and the Multi-national Interception Force (MIF) boarded 297 vessels carrying as much as 225,000 barrels of oil loaded in Iraq. This figure compares with an average of 12 vessels a month diverted between January and May.

'What is new is the overwhelming number of smaller ships and dhows intercepted that are carrying Iraqi crude,' says an MIF spokesperson. 'There are also a number of larger vessels still slipping through carrying oil in hidden tanks.' Of the 109 vessels diverted back to Iraq in August some 98 were dhows, carrying on average 100 tonnes of oil each.

MIF - comprising vessels from 15 countries operating on a rotational basis - is mandated under the terms of UN Security Council Resolutions 661 and 665 to enforce sanctions that prohibit Iraq selling crude outside the oil-for-food programme and acquiring weapons of mass destruction. It is assisted in this role by the US navy, which maintains the largest foreign naval presence in the region (MEED 20:9:02, Cover Story).

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