From the News Desk: Sanctions force tanker operators to halt Venezuela trade
Three of the four operators of the Greek-linked tankers blacklisted by Ofac are cancelling Venezuela port calls or reassessing their operations in relation to the country’s oil trade
With the US backing words with firm action when it comes to companies facilitating the trade of Venezuelan crude oil, shipowners are reconsidering calls at ports in the Latin American country as well as reassessing ownership structures
FOUR Greek-linked tankers were recently blacklisted by the US following the issuance of new guidance on ‘deceptive shipping practices’ to determine whether vessels are evading US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran.
The move by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control includes Automatic Identification System transponder manipulation.
Ofac advised that private industry should investigate such occurrences before “entering into new contracts involving problematic vessels or when engaging in ongoing business”.
According to Lloyd’s List Intelligence, the tankers blacklisted by the US are respectively managed by Chemnav Shipmanagement, Dynacom Tankers, Thenamaris and NGM Energy, and the final three from that list have made public that they are actively cancelling or reconsidering calls to ports in Venezuela.
One of the first tankers seen shunning the country was the Dynacom Tankers-operated very large crude carrier Boston. Data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence’s vessel-tracking tool Seasearcher show that the VLCC recently spent 15 days in waters off Venezuela’s coast, including six days when it did not transmit an AIS signal.
But the vessel is now free of cargo and the AIS is working normally, according to a Dynacom Tankers spokesperson, who added that it “has not and will not call at any Venezuelan port”.
Dynacom Tankers and NGM Energy confirmed to Lloyd’s List this week that they will also not be loading Venezuelan oil cargoes under the current conditions regarding sanctions, while Thenamaris said late last week that it places “the highest priority on regulatory compliance,” including international trade sanctions, and is fully co-operating with US authorities.
Greek shipowners are disproportionately exposed to the tougher US sanctions as they accounted for 78% of tankers transporting Venezuelan crude during the past 12 months.
Some 126 of the 161 crude tankers loading Venezuelan cargoes in the past year were beneficially owned by Greek companies, data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence shows. Greek owners account for more than 30% of the world crude tanker fleet by deadweight, according to the Union of Greek Shipowners.
Aside from those mentioned above, who have already been caught up in the sanctions clampdown, other leading tanker owners in the Venezuela trade have so far declined to make their positions public, but Lloyd’s List understands that many are already distancing themselves from the country.
A total of 108 tankers have loaded crude exports from Venezuela so far in 2020, but the numbers diminish each month as the US expands sanctions, including trading subsidiaries of Russia’s Rosneft, which had been marketing and selling on behalf of state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA.
Meanwhile, the Cook Islands flag registry revealed last week it is investigating two tankers that appear to have loaded crude or fuel oil in the Middle East Gulf region while there were gaps in their Automatic Identification Signals.
The 8,622 dtw combined chemical and oil tanker Ocean Garnet and the 73,004 dwt aframax tanker Free Sea moved to the Cook Islands registry from Panama in April and May respectively, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.
Both vessels have been engaged in voyages to and from the United Arab Emirates in recent months, but the Middle East Gulf port from where both loaded cannot be determined because no AIS signals were being transmitted just before and after the vessels called to load.
Angelos Chatzigeorgiou, the Athens-based chief executive of Maritime Cook Islands, which operates the registry on behalf of the Pacific nation, said initial vetting processes for the tankers did not indicate any sanctionable activities.
He added that both had valid and current protection and indemnity insurance, while other certificates were in order.
This follows on from the maritime authority of Panama investigating a fleet of eight Panama-flagged liquefied petroleum gas carriers linked to sanctioned Iranian shipments to China and India.
The world’s largest flag state recently said it will fine ships up to $10,000 and potentially drop them from the register if they are found to be deliberately turning off or interfering with their signal transponders in order to evade sanctions.