There are reports of T&T ports being used by Venezuela’s state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA), to avoid US sanctions.
According to a report on the website Lloyd’s List Maritime Intelligence, ships appear to be collecting oil cargo in Venezuela before stopping off in T&T and then setting off again, raising suspicions that cargoes are being hidden. It said PDVSA is suspected of using co-loads and “false berthings” to disguise cargo origins.
Since March 21, three tankers belonging to PDVSA have loaded oil cargoes in Venezuela then diverted to areas close to T&T for several hours. Vessel-tracking data showed that after spending a short time in T&T waters, the tankers left for their final long-haul destinations.
This was likely an attempt to get new bills of lading stating T&T, not Venezuela as the points of origin for the cargoes of fuel oil.
The tankers have been identified as the Mindoro, Amore Mio and Serengeti. Mindoro is owned by TMS Tankers, while Serengeti is owned by a Greece-based shipping company, Dynacom. The owner of Amore Mio could not be determined.
“There is no suggestion that any of the shipments were in breach of US sanctions,” Maritime Intelligence added.
This is the second alleged PDVSA tactic to hide the destination and origin of petroleum and crude exports. In late January, after the imposition of the US sanctions, two tankers that loaded in Venezuela were involved in ship-to-ship transfers off Gibraltar.
Rolling power blackouts that disrupted port loadings on top of US sanctions have shrunk crude exports from Venezuela to 17-year lows. In March, just under 1 million barrels per day was loaded on 33 tankers, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence—the second-lowest volume since 2006.
The US sanctions currently restrict the sales of crude and petroleum products from PDVSA to the US unless revenues are placed in escrow, cutting off the government of President Nicolás Maduro from its biggest export earner. Oil is s responsible for more than 90 per cent of Venezuela’s revenues.
The sanctions are aimed at sanctions would blocking US$7 billion in PDVSA’s assets and more than $11 billion in export proceeds over the next year.
On April 12, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control expanded the sanctions to include companies and vessels transporting crude to Cuba. Shipowners outside the US have been warned that they could be affected.
“While there are no specific prohibitions aimed at non-US persons transacting business with PDVSA, there is the potential that non-US persons could nevertheless be subject to sanctions either for operating in the Venezuelan oil sector, or for providing material assistance to, or support for, PDVSA,” the report stated.
Two of the cargoes that were diverted through T&T are currently sailing around the Cape of Good Hope and signalling Singapore, a typical destination for fuel oil cargoes.
Serengeti is making a transatlantic crossing and signalling its next port as Gibraltar.