National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) sent a crude tanker to Venezuela to load it with 1.9m bbl of oil, Bloomberg reported, citing a document seen by the media.
Ndros vessel, which is owned by New Shipping Ltd-LIB, came to Venezuelan port of Jose under a Palau flag, the report says. However, it is claimed that the ship has been booked by NIOC, which is listed as a client in the transaction, while Venezuelan state-owned company PdVSA is designated as a shipper.
According to Bloomberg, the ship’s transponder was turned off on Friday when it arrived at Jose – a practice commonly used by vessels trying to avoid detection.
The United States has targeted both states with a bevy of sanctions in the past, only prompting further cooperation in the oil sector between the two “pariah” states. Tehran has been subject to a US economic and arms embargo, and Washington has been punishing companies that do business with Iran.
In Venezuela, the United States has imposed several rounds of sanctions targeting the country’s oil and gas sector in an attempt to facilitate the departure of President Nicolás Maduro in support of the head of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó, who in January 2019 proclaimed himself acting president of Venezuela.
Guaidó’s claim provoked an outcry from Maduro government and a large number of countries around the world, but was welcomed by most Latin American, European countries and the United States. However, the fact that he never had any actual authority cost him most support both inside Venezuela and internationally; in late 2020 a new National Assembly was elected without his participation.
Oil Sector Under Pressure
On 28 January 2019, the US Treasury Department designated PdVSA as subject to sanctions and eventually blocked its property and interests under US jurisdiction, while also prohibiting US companies and individuals from engaging in transactions with the oil giant.
In 2020, Washington also sanctioned two subsidiary companies of Russia’s Rosneft Oil Company for helping Venezuela to export its oil and later four foreign shipping companies for transporting the country’s crude.
Caracas has been struggling to find shipping companies willing to risk US sanctions, with oil production in the country eventually dropping by more than 1 million barrels per day.
Following its own troubled relations with the US, Iran was not scared of defiance and continued shipping petroleum products to Venezuela in exchange for gold, while also helping the country to export its crude to other nations.
Just in September, Iran-flagged tanker Honey arrived to Jose to ship oil condensate to then load Venezuela’s Merey 16 for future export. According to Bloomberg, Tehran was now sending around 10 vessels – its “biggest fleet yet of tankers” – to the country to continue its mission.