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Khartoum orders foreign company to “steal” S. Sudan’s oil

By Julius N. Uma

January 14, 2012 (JUBA) - A foreign oil company on Saturday said it was ordered by the Government of Sudan (GoS) to load 650,000 barrels of South Sudan’s crude oil onto a GOS Vessel MT Sea Sky, a revelation that seems to confirm earlier claims by Juba of its oil being ’stolen’.

Oil worker in Sudan (Reuters)

The oil loading process, according to Petrodar Operating Company (PDOC), was “required” by the Khartoum government, “non-negotiable” and overseen by the latter and its national security organisations.

The current operator of the Petrodar pipeline in Sudan, which only transports oil from South Sudan territory (Block 3 and 7), PDOC is a consortium of national oil companies mainly from China, Malaysia and India. The company further operates the Al Jabalyn processing facility in Sudan as well as a marine terminal in Port Sudan.

Reacting to the statement, South Sudan’s petroleum and mining ministry said it was shocked by Khartoum’s decision, urging all Sudanese citizens and those in the international community to condemn what it described as “blatant theft” of South Sudan property.

“If these events are true, the GoS has committed blatant theft of Republic of South Sudan property and all Sudanese citizens and members of the international community must denounce the same,” said Stephen Dhieu Dau, the petroleum and mining minister.

The minister also warned against purchasing the stolen oil barrels, which it estimated at $65 million at the current market price, saying that any person who attempts to do so or otherwise handle or deal with the said oil, including facilitating the purchase, risks legal action.

Dau in his January 14 statement also lauded foreign oil companies for “consistently” defying alleged orders by the Khartoum government to divert all South Sudan’s oil to the Sudan based El Obeid and other Khartoum refineries.

The Khartoum government, the petroleum minister reiterated, has also blocked the export of any oil entitlement from South Sudan territory since December 25, stressing that its actions were justified in efforts to secure payments in kind for fees the South incurs in transportation and processing of its oil through infrastructures located in Sudan.

But Khartoum’s argument, he said, suffered a “fatal blow” when foreign oil companies sent a letter to both governments, clearly acknowledging that since its independence South Sudan has promptly paid the required oil fees, contrary to Sudan’s claims.

“The timing of this letter and the GoS’s new instruction to PDOC cannot be viewed in isolation from one another,” reads the minister’s strongly-worded statement.

Both the north and South are due to meet for the next round of negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. But analysts say that the the two may fail to reach a meaningful consensus given the poor relationship between the neighbouring nations.

On Friday, South Sudan’s petroleum and mining ministry and foreign oil companies completed the historic signing of a transitional agreement, aimed at boosting bilateral relations between the two countries on several issues.

The signing of these agreements, which took place in Juba, the South Sudan capital, also climaxed the visit of high level Chinese delegation led by Li Yuanchao, a senior member of the Communist Party of China (CPC) political bureau.

(ST)