Tanker operators have continued to facilitate trade with Venezuela amid US sanctions, with at least 17 oil tankers traveling to Venezuela in recent months, according to maritime data reviewed by Kharon.
In all, the US has sanctioned more than a dozen companies and about as many tankers as possible for Venezuela’s crude oil trade, and media reports suggest that Washington is considering adding more to the list. In some cases, sanctioned companies own or operate ships sailing to Petroleos de Venezuela, SA (PdVSA), which the US appointed in January 2019 and are said to be riddled with corruption.
The US appointment seeks to cut Venezuela’s oil exports, which make up the bulk of the country’s revenue. However, Venezuela continues to export crude oil: In September, India, Malaysia, Spain and Cuba were the main jurisdictions receiving its oil, according to Tanker Trackers. In the first half of October, Cuba was the only jurisdiction known to receive oil from Venezuela.
The vessels reviewed by Kharon, which are operated by eight tanker companies, are all insured by the international P&I club, according to records.
Exports hit a five-month high in September ahead of a US deadline to reduce Venezuela’s oil trade, Reuters reported, citing data from PdVSA and Refinitiv Eikon. PdVSA is telling customers to use the new offshore hub to make ship-to-ship transfers, changes that will lead to less surveillance and higher costs, Reuters reported last month, citing three sources. In October, Venezuela’s oil exports fell to a historic low of 359,000 barrels per day as most of PdVSA’s long-term clients halted trading to meet a US cut deadline, Reuters reported.
Top US officials have threatened further sanctions against companies and individuals involved in Venezuela’s oil trade. “We think our sanctions are very effective in reducing regime revenues but we think we can make them more effective. So we’re going to do some things to tighten up in the near future, ”Elliott Abrams, the US special representative for Venezuela, said in an August telephone interview with Reuters.
Product Shipping & Trading SA, registered in the Marshall Islands and towards by Greek shipping lord Petros Pappas, operates several tankers that have traveled between Venezuela and other jurisdictions since May 2020, according to maritime data. Pappas family members control the company, according to a 2016 US securities disclosure for Star Bulk Carriers Corp., another company in the Marshall Islands that Pappas founded.
Jane, the tanker operated by Product Delivery and owned by Istion Ventures Corp. based in the Marshall Islands, traveled from Spain to Venezuela between August and September this year, where it makes official port calls at the Venezuelan ports of Amuay and Punta Cardon, according to maritime location data (AIS). PdVSA’s Amuay and Cardon refineries are located at these two ports. An explosion at the Amuay refinery on October 28 put it out of operation for the time being, while the Cardon refinery, whose catalytic crackers are the key to gasoline production, restarted operations on 27 October. It had temporarily suspended refinery activity on October 24 due to valve failure. Jane arrived in Las Palmas, Spain, in mid-October from Venezuela.
Tanker operated for the Delivery of other Products, North Ocean, made a port call in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, from October 20 to October 23, and is currently en route to Las Palmas. Likewise, Northern Light placed a port call at the El Palito refinery from 20 October to 26 October after traveling from Gibraltar and are currently also en route to Las Palmas, data show. Other tankers operated for Product Shipping traveling between Venezuela and other jurisdictions in 2020 include Ariel, La Boheme, and Lorelei, AIS data shows.
Ships operated by Delta Tankers Ltd based in the Marshall Islands, owned by Greek shipping king Diamantis Diamantidis, continues to travel to Venezuela, according to maritime data.
The Sounion traveled from the Netherlands to Venezuela, and to India, between June and August, while Delta Ios traveled from Singapore to Venezuela and then to Spain between July and September 2020. Two additional ships operated by Tanker Delta were dispatched Venezuelan oil during July and August to refineries in Italy jointly owned by oil giant Eni SpA and the national Kuwaiti oil company, according to media reports. Eni has been involved in swapping crude oil for debt with Venezuela through US licenses, but officials in Washington have discussed reducing the authorization, Reuters has reported.
Executive Ship Management Pte Ltd, based in Singapore and with offices in 12 cities around the world, is part of the Executive Group of Companies, which consists of six other marine services-related businesses, the company’s website indicates. The company also operates several tankers that have been involved in Venezuela’s voyage this year, according to AIS tracking data.
Equally, a tanker operated by Executive Ship Management and owned by Luendra Tankers Pte. Ltd., traveled from Singapore to around Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, between July and September, and then make a port call at the Port of Kemaman, Malaysia, AIS data shows. Afra Laurel is scheduled to take part of Venezuela’s 2.4 million barrels of heavy crude oil to Singapore in March 2020, according to Reuters.
Tokyo City, also operated by Executive Ship Management, traveling to Venezuela in 2020. The city of Tokyo, formerly known as VL Nichioh, has a history of turning off its location transponder (AIS) to hide trips to Venezuela, according to the Associated Press. Shutting down the AIS is an indicator of potential sanctions evasion, according to US advisers.
Withdrawing from Venezuelan Trade
Several large tanker operators have been scared off of Venezuela’s oil trade by pressure from US sanctions. In June, Dynacom Tankers, Thenamaris Ships Management and NGM Energy, all based in Greece but registered elsewhere, made public statements indicating they would not load Venezuelan oil cargoes as long as sanctions remained in effect.
The vessels operated by the respective companies have already traveled to Venezuela, but maritime location data shows they stopped doing so after the statement.
Chios I, the ship operated by Dynacom Tankers, be sanctioned and then removed from the list. NGM Energy operates Voyager 1, other ships designated and removed from the list.
Eurotankers, registered in Liberia and owned by the Greek shipping family, operates several tankers who have traveled between Venezuela and other countries, maritime tracking data show. First, Asphalt Traders, traveled from Trinidad & Tobago to Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, and then to the Dominican Republic between March and April 2020.
Another Eurotanker operated vessel, Euroforce, was sanctioned in June, but was removed from the list a month later. Euroforce arrived in Texas in September carrying Iranian oil confiscated by US authorities as part of a foreclosure sanction violation case, Reuters report that month.