The New York Mercantile Exchange launched a Brent crude oil futures contract in Dublin yesterday, moving across the Atlantic to challenge London's International Petroleum Exchange.

Nymex aims to draw business from the IPE as the established exchange cuts its trading floor hours and moves towards more electronic trading.

By 1400 GMT, combined volumes for January, February and March Nymex Brent were 3,882 lots compared to over 15,000 lots for the first three months of IPE Brent.

The new Nymex contract opened at 10:00 local time (10:00 GMT) on the day London's International Petroleum Exchange extended electronic-only trade until 14:00, restricting pit hours from 14:00 to 19:30.

The IPE's extension of electronic trade is unpopular with many London traders, especially locals who deal on their own account.

"I plan to bring my family over if it works," said local trader Bart Pepper, speaking from the Dublin pit. "The whole industry is just waiting to see what's going to happen this week."

Pepper was among about 40 traders on the floor at the opening bell. More are eligible to deal over the phone with over 100 traders and clerks from London and New York registered, said Nymex spokeswoman Nachamah Jacobovits.

The move to Dublin also found favour among some of the big London Brent players.

"Phibro are trading much larger Brent volumes in Dublin than on the IPE screen," said Gary Middleditch of Phibro in London, a subsidiary of Citigroup.