NEW DELHI, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Indian refiner MRPL is struggling to take delivery of 1 million barrel cargoes of crude oil after failing to start operation of a new offshore terminal.
The Indian refiner in mid-January had to lighten the load of its first spot vessel carrying 1 million barrels by using a smaller vessel at another port, two sources privy to the latest development said on Monday.
The delays are making it difficult for MRPL, Iran's biggest Indian customer with an annual contract for 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), to receive Iranian crude. Western sanctions have limited the number of small Iranian tankers.
MRPL had hoped a new single point mooring (SPM) would start operating at the Mangalore Port by May 2012, but the SPM has faced repeated delays. The latest delay involved a leak in a test run earlier this month. ]
"There are uncertainties over commissioning of SPM. For how long can MRPL afford to pay demurrage charges?" one of the sources said.
MRPL received a suezmax, the Cape Bastia, from trader Trafigura containing 1 million barrels of Equatorial Guinea's Zafiro crude on Jan. 13, hoping the SPM would be commissioned by end-December.
The sources said MRPL took the Cape Bastia to Mumbai port over the weekend and transferred about 366,000 barrels to a smaller vessel, a process known as lighterage. The two ships are currently due for unloading at Mangalore port, they said.
MRPL will use lighterage for unloading a second 1 million barrel spot cargo, which was bought from Glencore, they said.
"There is a serious problem with the pipeline at SPM," the first source said.
Insurance problems triggered by sanctions against Iran have added to the delays in the commercial start-up of the SPM.
Indian insurers, which do not fall directly under the sanctions but depend on Western reinsurers to hedge their risk, will give full cover for the SPM only if MRPL gives an undertaking it will not use the facility for Iranian crude. (Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Jane Baird)