Iranian Oil Company uses disguised tanker to export Venezuelan oil
Venezuelan crude is loaded for export by a tanker chartered by the National Iranian Oil Company, documents from state-run PDVSA reveal, providing evidence of the newest strategies of the two countries to extend their trade in defiance of US sanctions.
As Venezuela exchanged gold and other commodities for Iranian grain, condensate and fuel, Venezuela and Iran have deepened their cooperation this year.
Several PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A.) clients, like NIOC, use the names of scrapped vessels to conceal the routes and identities of the tankers they use.
The documents showed that a very large crude carrier (VLCC), known as the Ndros in PDVSA's loading documents, arrived last week at Venezuela's main oil port of Jose to load 1.9 million barrels of heavy Merey 16 crude bound for Asia.
Satellite images were used by vessel tracking service TankerTrackers.com to demonstrate that the Ndros was scrapped in 2018, confirming rumors on international shipping databases.
PDVSA, the oil ministry of Venezuela and NIOC did not respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Department of Treasury declined to comment.
The shipping databases showed that Hong Kong-based Ship Management Services Ltd, which acquired Calliop in October, could not be reached for comment.
In September, Iran sent a VLCC, called the Horse, to Venezuela. In order to formulate exportable crude, it produced a very light form of oil for PDVSA to blend with its very heavy oil.
In October, the tanker returned to Iran carrying Venezuelan heavy oil for NIOC, PDVSA's schedules revealed. The tanker was misidentified as the Master Honey in PDVSA's databases.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has tightened sanctions on Iran and Venezuela in the run-up to leaving office in January.
In October, a number of PDVSA customers who were allowed to exchange Venezuelan oil for fuel under U.S. sanctions had their permits suspended. But vessels contributing to the Iran-Venezuela trade have not been intercepted by Washington.
Gasoline has also been shipped to Venezuela by smaller Iranian tankers, making several voyages between the two countries since May.
Maritime Business World