Despite Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Mahishini Kolonne denying any attempt to unload one million barrels of Iranian crude oil in the Colombo Port, a White House-nominated US State Department envoy met Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) Chairman Ranjith Wickremasingha to discuss this matter, the Daily Mirror learns.
He told Daily Mirror that he had met a US embassy delegation to explain the alleged attempt at unloading one million barrels of Iranian crude oil worth Rs.7 billion carried to Colombo on Liberian registered oil tanker F WHALE at a time Iran was under a US-led international embargo was in force.
"I had a fruitful discussion this morning with US Embassy's acting economic counselor Mathew Lowe who has been sent directly from the White House. I was accompanied by Economic Adviser Manohari Dharmadasa. I explained in detail the circumstances surrounding the oil tanker and the CPC's action to strictly adhere to the accepted procedure and the refusal to permit the unloading of fuel at the Colombo Port. They were fully satisfied with the explanation," Mr. Wickramasingha said yesterday.
Despite a Abu Dhabi broker pressuring the CPC to allow the fuel consignment to be unloaded at the Colombo Port, Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka has clearly instructed the CPC to avoid purchasing fuel outside the accepted procedure," he said.
Mr. Wickramasingha said the Sapugaskanda oil refinery had stopped using Iranian light crude because 45% of the refined output was furnace oil, but what the CPC wanted was 100% diesel because the need for furnace oil had decreased with a reduced demand for thermal power in the wake of phasing out the purchase of thermal power by the CEB.
The US embassy in a letter to the Power and Energy Ministry Secretary B.M.S. Batagoda said Sri Lanka was committed to comply with US sanctions on Iran and had given an undertaking that Sri Lanka would not purchase Iranian fuel but there was a concern that at least some of the Iranian fuel might be unloaded in Sri Lanka. The US wanted appropriate action taken by the CPC to prevent any Iranian crude oil being unloaded at the Colombo Port.
"We are aware that the US embassy in Colombo has drawn informed the CPC of the suspicious movement of the oil tanker F WHALE but we will fully abide with the US sanctions on Iran and therefore the matter of allowing any such fuel being unloaded in the Colombo Port does not arise," Mr. Wickramasingha stressed.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman Lakdasa Fernando said the tanker F WHALE was not allowed to enter the port remained outside.
"The Liberian-registered oil tanker F WHALE stayed outside the 12 mile radius of the Port. Sri Lankan authorities are not aware of the whereabouts of the tanker right now," Mr. Fernando said.
The US Charge d’ Affaires informed the CPC that the Liberian flagged vessel F WHALE was suspected to carry Iranian oil and on the way to Colombo. The vessel had failed to comply with annual safety and other requirement and was no longer registered under the Liberian or Panamanian flag.
The US embassy alleged that despite instructions, the CPC had reportedly purchased a consignment of Iranian crude oil and some one million barrels were being transported on board this vessel.
The best example to prove that Sri Lanka fully complied with the US embargo on Iran is a loan of US$25 million still to be settled for a transaction with Iran which took place before the embargo. (Sandun A Jayasekera)