p0228 BC-OilPrices 3rdLd-Writethru 04-21 0607 routed by j. schu

Oil prices spike to record $117.40 a barrel after Mideast attack on Japanese oil tanker

EDS: ADDS detail, background, analyst comment on tanker attack; UPDATES prices


AP Business Writer

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Oil prices spiked to a record $117.40 a barrel after a Japanese oil tanker was attacked in Middle Eastern waters, off the east coast of Yemen.


The 150,000-ton tanker Takayama was attacked about 270 miles off the Yemen coast in the Gulf of Aden while it was heading for Saudi Arabia, its Japanese operator, Nippon Yusen K.K., said in a statement posted on its Web site.

None of the ship’s 23 crew members was injured, and the extent of damage to the tanker was under investigation, the company said. Kyodo News agency reported that the Japanese tanker was leaking fuel after it was fired on by a rocket launcher from a small boat. No other details were immediately available.

News of the attack pushed crude oil futures higher into record territory.

"There’s clearly some geopolitical tension in the market," said Mark Pervan, senior commodity strategist at the ANZ Bank in Melbourne, Australia. "This will die down, but the market is pretty jittery at the moment," he said.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery fell back quickly after pushing to $117.40 a barrel. Later it fell back to $117.02 a barrel, up 33 cents from the close at the end of last week.

Last Friday, it rose to touch $117 for the first time after an attack on a Royal Dutch Shell PLC pipeline by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta — the main militant group in Nigeria’s restive south.

The group also promised further attacks on the petroleum industry in Africa’s largest producer of crude oil.

Pervan said incidents such as the pipeline and tanker attacks were "one-off" issues that didn’t really change the supply-demand fundamentals of the market.


Comments over the weekend by an OPEC official that the group isn’t likely to increase production also supported prices on Monday.

Abdullah el al-Badri, secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, said Sunday that oil prices would likely go higher and that the group was ready to raise production if the price pressure was due to a shortage of supply — something he doubted.

"Oil prices, there is a common understanding that has nothing to do with supply and demand," al-Badri said on the sidelines of an energy conference in Rome.

Last Friday, Shell confirmed a pipeline leak that it said appeared to have been caused by explosives. It said it had isolated the line for repairs and that a small quantity of production had been shut.

Attacks since early 2006 on Nigerian oil infrastructure by the militant group have cut nearly one-quarter of the country’s normal petroleum output, boosting oil prices. Nigeria is a major supplier of oil to the U.S.

Also over the weekend, Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted Saturday as saying crude oil prices at $115 a barrel are too low, and that oil must "discover its real value."

The Iranian president made the remarks during a visit to an oil and gas exhibition in Tehran late Friday.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures rose 2.37 cents to $3.316 a gallon while gasoline prices rose 0.07 cent to $2.99 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 6.8 cents to $10.655 per 1,000 cubic feet.


Brent crude futures for June rose 23 cents to $114.15 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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