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British Airways has grounded all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports because of “a major IT failure” that is causing severe disruption to its global operations.

The airline said Saturday that its terminals at the two airports had become “extremely congested” due to the computer problems, adding that all flights scheduled before 1700 GMT had been cancelled.

BA said there was no evidence the computer failure had been triggered by a cyber attack.

The global computer outage has created problems for tens of thousands of travelers on a key holiday weekend in Britain; the start of a Bank Holiday and the half-term break for some schools.

Heathrow said the IT problem had caused "some delays for passengers" and it was working with BA to resolve it.

Footage taken at the airport showed long lines at customer services after travelers were advised they would be unable to rebook because systems were down.

BA said it was trying to restore operations on Sunday, although some disruption to services would continue.

“We are working hard to get our customers who were due to fly today on to the next available flights over the course of the rest of the weekend. Those unable to fly will be offered a full refund,” it said.

The airline also said that the system failure had affected BA’s call centers and website.

Some passengers also complained that they could not check in on the airline’s mobile app. 

The GMB trade union blamed the disruption on the airline’s decision last year to outsource some IT jobs to India.

“This could have all been avoided,” said GMB national aviation officer Mick Rix. “BA in 2016 made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India.”

The airline said in response that it would “never compromise the integrity and security of our IT systems,” adding that outsourcing of IT services was a “very common practice across all industries.”

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TEHRAN- French oil major Total plans to conclude the Iran South Pars gas deal before summer, its chief executive Patrick Pouyanne told journalists on the sidelines of the company's annual general meeting.

Pouyanne said the signing of U.S. sanctions waivers, among other hurdles, cleared the path for the deal to be signed, Reuters reported.

Total said earlier in February that a final decision on the deal hinged on the new U.S. administration renewing the waivers.

The French giant signed a deal with National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) for the phase 11 of developing South Pars gas field (Iran shares with Qatar in the Persian Gulf), becoming the first western energy company to sign a major deal with Tehran since the lifting of international sanctions in January 2016.

The phase 11 project will progress in two stages, the first costing an estimated $2 billion, Total said. The produced gas will be fed into Iran's gas network.

The French company has already played a key role in Iran's energy industry, including the development of phases 2 and 3 of South Pars in the 2000s, before pulling out of the country after international sanctions were imposed in 2010.

MA/MG

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TEHRAN- Development of South Pars gas field (in the Persian Gulf) in the second stage is estimated to require $20-30 billion fund,  Mohammad Meshkinfam, the managing director of Pars Oil and Gas Company (POGC), which is in charge of developing the gas field, told ILNA.

“It is our initial estimation of the required fund, but it depends on the type of planning and anyway we should take benefit of the foreign capabilities for the second stage”, he also noted.

He said: “We are also planning to improve domestic capabilities to become fully prepared for the implementation of the next development stage.”
South Pars is divided into 24 standard phases of development in the first stage. Most of the phases are fully operational at the moment.

The huge offshore field, shared with Qatar, covers an area of 9,700 square kilometers, 3,700 square kilometers of which, called South Pars, are in Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf. The remaining 6,000 square kilometers, called North Dome, are situated in Qatar’s territorial waters.
The field is estimated to contain a significant amount of natural gas, accounting for about eight percent of the world’s reserves, and approximately 18 billion barrels of condensate.

MA/MG

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TEHRAN- Iran and Syria signed a document on enforcement of economic cooperation in Damascus on Thursday, IRNA reported.

The document was penned by Syrian Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Mohammad Samer al-Khalil and Head of Iran’s Expanding Economic Cooperation Committee Saieed Ohadi.

“During the held two-day meeting on increasing mutual cooperation, all the commerce and economic issues regarding the signed document as well as increasing joint investments and bilateral cooperation were explored,” Samer al-Khalil told reporters after signing the document.

He also informed that a Syrian delegation will visit Tehran next week to explore avenues of further collaboration.

According to the same report, Ohadi met the Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Minister of Tourism Bishr Riyad Yazigi on Wednesday.

HJ/MA 

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TEHRAN- With a three-percent decrease, Iran’s annual production of wheat will reach 15 million tons in 2017, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasted in its latest report.

In its latest report named “Grain: World Markets and Trade”, USDA predicted that Iran will produce 15 million tons of wheat by the end of 2017, showing three percent decrease in comparison with the previous year that the figure stood at 15.5 million tons.
The country’s annual production of barely will also witness a three percent fall and will reach 2.9 million tons from 2016’s 3 million tons.
Rice production in Iran will hover around 1.78 million tons in 2017, registering no significant difference from the preceding year, the same report confirmed.

HJ/MA
 

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TEHRAN – After the 172nd official meeting of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Iran was once again exempted from the OPEC, non-OPEC deal to cut oil production.

The country which was allowed to increase production under the original accord, retains the same output target, Bloomberg reported quoting Kuwait’s Oil Minister Issam Almarzooq as saying. 

That deal gave the Islamic Republic room to increase output to a maximum of 3.797 million barrels a day. Nigeria and Libya will also remain exempt from making.

OPEC and its allies extended oil production cuts for nine more months after last year’s landmark agreement failed to eliminate the global oversupply or achieve a sustained price recovery.

The producer group together with Russia and other non-members agreed to prolong their accord through March, but no new non-OPEC countries will be joining the pact and there was no option set out to continue curbs further into 2018. The market was unimpressed as prices tumbled more than 5 percent to under $49 a barrel in New York and more than a billion barrels were traded.

Six months after forming an unprecedented coalition of 24 nations and delivering output reductions that exceeded all expectations, resurgent production from U.S. shale fields has meant oil inventories remain well above the level targeted by OPEC. While stockpiles are shrinking, ministers acknowledged the surplus built up during three years of overproduction won’t clear until at least the end of 2017. The group is prepared for a long game.

Al-Falih said the cuts are working, adding that stockpile reductions will accelerate in the third quarter and inventory levels will come down to the five-year average in the first quarter of next year. While he expects a “healthy return” for U.S. shale, that won’t derail OPEC’s goals and a nine-month extension will “do the trick,” he said.

The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee -- composed of six OPEC and non-OPEC nations -- will continue watching the market and can recommend further action if needed, said Almarzooq.

EF/MA
 

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