23 October 2014
John Kemp of Reuters recalls the oil embargo of ’73
On Oct. 21, 1973, Aramco, the kingdom’s oil producer, was formally instructed to cease shipping cargoes to the United States and other countries on the embargo list.
“Aramco was assigned the task of ensuring that oil offloaded worldwide was not transhipped to non-designated recipients,” the company’s chief executive, Frank Jungers recalled in his memoirs (“The caravan goes on: how Saudi Arabia and Aramco grew up together” 2013).
“We were required to certify that each barrel went to its intended destination. This required that we set up a small and very capable group … (that) would designate, document and verify every shipment.”
A secret exception was made for the U.S. Navy, which was running out of jet fuel for aircraft on its carriers in Southeast Asia involved in the Vietnam War.
With the king’s tacit approval, Aramco loaded a Caltex tanker in Bahrain with jet fuel, then organised a secret ship-to-ship transfer to a second vessel far out at sea for redelivery to the Pacific fleet.
But otherwise the embargo was total. Saudi Arabia was subsequently joined by Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar in a failed bid to influence U.S. policy.