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950,000-Barrel Oil Cargo Returns To Venezuela After Year At Sea

A cargo of 950,000 barrels of crude that had been stranded at sea for about a year has finally docked at the port of Jose in Venezuela, Bloomberg reports, adding that the cargo was worth around $50 million at today’s prices.

The cargo, on the Gerd Knutsen tanker, was loaded in January 2019 but never reached its destination on the U.S. Gulf Coast because of the escalation of U.S. sanctions against Venezuela and the effective takeover of Citgo by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido with the support of Washington.

Gerd Knutsen set sail a day before U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Guaido as interim president of Venezuela and a week before he announced further sanctions on Venezuela, targeting its oil industry. A month later, the opposition-dominated Venezuelan National Assembly picked a new board for Citgo. PDVSA, however, the parent company, refused to allow Gerd Knutsen to set sail for the United States.

Since then, it has been a battle for control of the $50-million cargo between Caracas and Citgo.

Much of this battle took place in U.S. courts. According to reports at the time, the Maduro-loyal board of Citgo, based in Venezuela, wrote to the captain of Gerd Knutsen to ask that the cargo be released to Citgo’s parent, PDVSA, in December 2019. The second Citgo board tried to block this release by obtaining a court order, Reuters recalls in a timeline of the events.

The court, in Delaware, ruled in favor of the Guaido-affiliated Citgo board, calling Maduro’s attempt to get the cargo back “legally invalid”. It told the Citgo board to deliver its ruling to the captain of Gerd Knutsen but it appears Caracas was quicker and the cargo returned to its point of origin.

Meanwhile, the Maduro government is ceding control over the country’s oil fields to foreign companies to keep the oil flowing and the economy trudging along amid the U.S. sanctions, the New York Times reported earlier this month. Foreign companies are taking over the day-to-day operation of the fields, managing the exports of crude, and even hiring the security for the fields.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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