* Southern exports rise to 1.81 mbpd so far in March
* New SPM platform exported first cargo on March 13
* Iraq aims for post-war record exports in April
By Alex Lawler
LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - Iraq’s oil exports from its southern ports have jumped by 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) in March, according to shipping data tracked by Reuters, a sign Baghdad is on the way towards boosting shipments to a post-war record rate.
Exports from the Basra oil terminal, Khor al-Amaya, and a new Gulf outlet have averaged 1.81 million bpd in the first 19 days of March, the data showed, up from about 1.66 million bpd in February.
Iraq is expected to provide the world’s largest expansion in oil export capacity in 2012 as new outlets open.
Oil companies such as BP and ENI have been working to boost output in Iraq, which holds the third largest reserves in the Middle East. But exports have been held back for years by a lack of port capacity after decades of war and sanctions.
Oil began loading from a new floating single-point mooring (SPM) platform in the Gulf - the first of several - on March 8. So far the facility has exported one cargo, a 2 million-barrel shipment which sailed on March 13.
Baghdad is aiming to raise oil sales to 2.30 million bpd in April, a post-war record rate, an Iraqi oil official said last week. He said oil sales were expected to average around 2.25 million bpd in March.
Iraq exports the bulk of its crude from southern ports. Shipments of crude from the Kirkuk field in northern Iraq usually amount to 400,000 bpd and are expected to remain stable around that level.
Southern shipments were stuck for most of last year at around 1.7 million bpd.
The expansion in exports is slower than expected because the start-up of the SPM was delayed from an earlier target of Jan. 1 by bad weather and technical problems. (Reporting by Alex Lawler; Editing by Jane Baird)