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The United States administration has seized the fuel cargo of several vessels alleging the fuel came from Iran and was going to Venezuela, the Wall Street Journal reports citing government officials.
The confiscation follows a lawsuit filed by U.S. prosecutors for the seizure of the cargo carried by the four vessels for violating U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. According to the Wall Street Journal sources, the tankers were seized without military force.
Venezuela is in the grips of a severe gasoline shortage as refineries are unable to operate at run rates higher than 10 percent because of a shortage of diluents necessary for the production of fuels as well as an urgent need for repairs.
Iran, as a fellow target of U.S. sanction, declared its readiness to help Venezuela deal with the shortage and earlier this year managed to send one tanker with gasoline to the South American country, the first of five tankers in total planned to ease the fuel shortage.
However, according to an AP report on the topic, the other four tankers never made it to the Venezuelan coast and later went missing, according to a U.S. official. Two of them were later located near Cape Verde, the same official told the AP.
The Iranian ambassador to Venezuela has denied the news, saying neither the vessels nor their owners were Iranian. Hojad Soltani took to Twitter to say that “This is another lie and act of psychological warfare perpetrated by the U.S. propaganda machine. The terrorist #Trump cannot compensate for his humiliation and defeat by Iran using false propaganda.”
Meanwhile, Venezuela is taking things into its own hands. PDVSA earlier this week restarted two crude oil distillation units and plans to restart another within two weeks to tackle the gasoline shortage. Still, most of the country’s refining capacity—1.3 million bpd of it—remains offline.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.