Iraq has launched a new offshore terminal in the Persian Gulf in a bid to maximise crude oil exports.

The new single-point mooring unit is the first of four planned offshore facilities, which will eventually add 200,000 barrels a day to its capacity for loading tankers by March.

The unit extends into the sea from the southern oil terminal of Fao and has the potential export capacity of 850,000 barrels a day.

As a result of the investment in the four offshore units, the country’s export capacity is expected to increase by a combined 3.4 million barrels a day by 2013.

Iraq, with a narrow coastline between Kuwait and Iran, plans to install an undersea pipeline to each unit and load oil aboard tankers capable of mooring there.

Iraq’s chief of state oil marketing organization chairman Falah al-Amri told Bloomberg: "Oil exports from southern Iraq will increase to 2.1 million barrels a day within four months from 1.7 million barrels today. Exports from northern Iraqi oil fields will probably rise to 450,000 barrels a day within four months from 400,000 barrels now."

According to data from BP, Iraq owns the world’s fifth largest crude deposits, including Canadian oil sands.