Colombian oil firm Ecopetrol will supply 12 million barrels of crude to a private Indian refining company under a year-long contract worth approximately $1.2 billion, the Bogota-based company said Wednesday.

"This export contract offers Ecopetrol advantages because it ensures a systematic sale of crude at a pre-arranged price," the company said, noting that the accord bolsters its "business strategy of supplying crude to end users."

It also said the direct delivery of crude to buyers gives Ecopetrol "greater control over the crude's final destination" and "logistical flexibility."

Ecopetrol did not identify the Indian customer but said a first shipment of crude had already left the Caribbean port of Coveñas.

The first 2 million barrels were shipped in "one of the world's most modern tank vessels in the VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) category," Ecopetrol said, adding that the ship will arrive in India in 35 days.

The state-run firm said its exports in the first half of 2012 were valued at 17.6 trillion pesos ($9.77 billion), up 23.3 percent from the same period of 2011.

Ecopetrol, Latin America's fourth-largest oil company, has operations in Colombia, Brazil, Peru and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

EFE