Venezuela makes oil transfers in waters off Malaysia as Iran does

VENEZUELAN-linked tankers appear to be using Iranian-style ship-to-transfers off Malaysia to skirt US sanctions and get oil China, reports London's Lloyd's List

17 July 2019 - 19:00

VENEZUELAN-linked tankers appear to be using Iranian-style ship-to-transfers off Malaysia to skirt US sanctions and get oil China, reports London's Lloyd's List.

Iran seems undiscouraged by US sanctions on its crude exports, with a shipment of oil currently heading for Syria after a ship-to-ship transfer earlier this month.

The suezmax tanker Masal, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, transferred its one million barrel cargo of oil to an undisclosed ship on July 11, while at anchor in waters in the Red Sea near the Suez Canal, vessel-tracking data shows.

A week earlier, Gibraltar had detained the Iranian controlled very large crude carrier, Grace 1, with its two million barrel cargo of Iranian crude bound for Syria.

The vessel Masal is one of four tankers known to have shipped Iranian crude to Syria in the past three months, as US sanctions restrict Iranian shipments and spur vessels to deploy tactics to escape detection.

All Syrian-bound vessels turn off their automatic identification system responders during the ship-to-ship transfer. The vessel joins the NITC-owned Sylvia I, now heading for Syria without any AIS signal after exiting the Suez Canal on July 5.

Iran is using its own fleet of NITC tankers, which include up to 36 very large crude carriers (VLCCs) and suezmaxes to lift crude, turning off AIS transponders that transmit vessel location while loading, and also during ship-to-ship transfers to obscure the destination and origin.

A further flotilla of Chinese-owned fleets of at least six VLCCs, plus several suezmaxes and six product tankers is also deploying the same strategy to ship condensate and crude to Chinese ports.

Flag-shopping and changing classification societies are switched to further complicate detection and avoid punishment.

Now, Venezuela is mimicking these tactics.

The vessel Eurovoyager, a Liberian-flagged suezmax operated by Piraeus-based Eurotankers, took on a cargo of crude from another suezmax, Delta Eurydice, in waters off Malacca last week.

The Liberian-flagged Delta Eurydice, operated by Delta Tankers, had loaded in Puerto la Cruz in mid-May. After arriving off Singapore on June 27, the tanker had remained at anchor off Malacca before undertaking the ship-to-ship transfer.

The location in waters off Malaysia is also where Chinese-owned VLCCs conduct similar STS operations with a shuttle service of tankers shipping between there and Iran to transfer the cargo.

The vessel Eurovoyager is now outside the Chinese port of Qingdao, while the other suezmax is in waters off Singapore after discharging the cargo.

Iranian exports have plunged to 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) a month, with nearly all cargoes sailing under the radar, from levels exceeding two million bpd before the US re-imposition of sanctions in November.

Exports from Venezuela are seen at 920,000 bpd in June, Lloyd's List Intelligence data shows, boosted by shipments of heavy grades preferred by Asian refiners, according to the International Energy Agency's recent report.

China-bound loadings were at 400,000 bpd as repayment for oil-for-loans deals, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.


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