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‘Stolen’ Oil Cargo Shows U.S. Sanctions On Venezuela Work

A legal fight over a gasoline cargo anchored near Houston is indicative of the shipping industry increasingly refusing to have anything to do with Venezuela and the efficiency of the U.S. sanctions on Nicolas Maduro’s regime, The Associated Press reports in a new investigation citing court documents and emails.

Companies ultimately owned by Greek shipping magnate Evangelos Marinakis and Venezuelan shipping tycoon Wilmer Ruperti are suing each other in U.S. courts over an attempt by a company of Ruperti’s to have a tanker ultimately owned by a Marinakis company to deliver a gasoline cargo to Venezuela via a ship-to-ship transfer (STS) off Aruba and close to Venezuela’s shores.  

The tanker Alkimos, operated by Marinakis’s Capital Ship Management Corp, has been anchored off Houston for more than two months after it refused to do an STS transfer off Aruba, the AP says.

The shipowner’s broker of Alkimos suspected in March that something was wrong when it was chartered by Ruperti’s ES Euroshipping with instructions that it would do an STS transfer to a ship that has exclusively called at Venezuelan ports over the past year.

“Just to be clear in advance. Owner WILL NOT participate in any illegal trading,” the shipowner’s broker wrote in an email at the end of March, according to the AP investigation.

Alkimos’s broker asked for alternative instructions after suspecting a potential sanctions breach with an STS transfer off Aruba. It never received them within two provided deadlines, so it turned around and headed for Houston at the end of April.

Ruperti’s Euroshipping now claims that the operator of the tanker Capital Ship Management hijacked the cargo, demanding US$2.3 million, while the Greek firm is suing Euroshipping for losses because of delays and staying adrift and is seeking a US$1.7-million lien.   

U.S. officials say that the saga shows that sanctions on Venezuela are working.

“The most reputable firms, including the largest Greek shipping companies, have been cooperative and have shown that they value their reputations and their global businesses,” Elliott Abrams, the Trump Administration’s special representative for Venezuela, told the AP.

According to Reuters estimates, oil tankers carrying at least 18.1 million barrels of Venezuelan oil are currently idling at sea across the world unable to find buyers – some for as long as six months – as many potential and previous customers of Venezuela’s crude are not taking chances with delivery for fear of incurring secondary U.S. sanctions.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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