Oil tankers that were sailing toward Venezuela have turned around and others have left the country’s waters as the United States considers blacklisting dozens of ships for transporting Venezuelan oil, according to shipping data and industry sources.
The threat of tighter sanctions is already disrupting the global shipping market. Chinese oil firms are considering whether to decline to charter any tanker that has visited Venezuela in the past year, no matter where the ship is now or for what voyage, four shipping sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Washington is seeking to oust the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro by choking the oil exports that provide its main source of income. The measures have contributed to a fall in Venezuelan oil exports to a 17-year low and deepened the country’s economic crisis, but Maduro has held on - to the frustration of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
The United States may add dozens more tankers to an existing blacklist, U.S. sources told Reuters last week. That would make it more difficult for state firm PDVSA to deliver oil to refineries abroad. Exports dropped to about 452,000 barrels per day in May, the lowest since a national strike paralyzed the economy and hit exports between 2002 and 2003.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Twitter on Tuesday that Washington was attacking Venezuela’s economy by blocking foreign revenue that could be used to import humanitarian goods, including food and medicine. The U.S. State Department did not immediately comment.