Venezuela boosted its crude oil exports nearly threefold in November to more than 500,000 barrels per day (bpd), including by hiding the true identity of tankers to avoid detection, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the matter and shipping and tanker-tracking data.
Almost the entire volume of oil exports from Venezuela was headed to China last month, while Venezuelan crude stockpiles fell substantially, according to the data reviewed by Bloomberg.
Data from internal documents of Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA, reviewed by Bloomberg, showed that the company stated the names of tankers that are no longer operational as vessels loading crude at a Venezuelan port in November. At least six tankers listed as loading Venezuelan crude last month were sent to scrapyards months ago, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. This suggests that the names and identification of the tankers may have been used by other vessels to ship Venezuelan crude.
PDVSA has been using ship-to-ship transfers for its exports to China, but reports emerged last week that Venezuela had resumed direct shipments of crude oil to China despite the escalating U.S. sanctions trying to stifle Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
China is the biggest buyer of Venezuelan crude as it is of Iranian crude, despite U.S. sanctions aimed at stifling the two countries’ oil revenues. As a result of the sanctions, Venezuela’s production and exports have suffered gravely, with estimates that the average crude oil exports falling to 359,000 bpd in October. The drop followed the expiry of a grace period the U.S. had given to commodity traders to wind down their oil-for-fuel swap business with Venezuela, which was allowed for humanitarian reasons.
Besides the ship-to-ship transfers, Venezuela and China are also employing another tactic used by Iranian tankers: switching the transponders off for most of their voyage and only switching them on again when they near their destination.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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