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Exclusive-Venezuela’s PDVSA seeks oil tankers in anticipation of U.S. sanctions easing -Breaking


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: A tanker being docked at the Jose Antonio Anzoategui Industrial Complex in Anzoategui on April 15, 2015, as oil is pumped inside. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

Marianna Pararaga, Mircely Guanipa

CARACAS/HOUSTON, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s state-run oil firm PDVSA has been in discussions to purchase and lease several tankers. This is a signal that the country anticipates lifting U.S. sanctions against its petroleum sector.

Russia’s invading of Ukraine has triggered a worldwide search for oil resources, particularly the Venezuelan heavy oil. The U.S.-Venezuelan officials met at a high level in Caracas last month to discuss the sanctions placed on PDVSA by Donald Trump in 2019 as part of his campaign for “maximum Pressure” against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Trump’s 2020 sanctions resulted in a complete cut in export authorizations for most foreign energy companies involved in joint production with PDVSA. This suspension resulted in companies such as Chevron Corp (NYSE) Eni SpA, Repsol (OTC) SA have billions in unpaid dividends.

PDVSA’s maritime division, PDV Marina and its Trade and Supply division met recently with representatives from several companies offering to transport tankers. According to the documents and anonymous sources, all were open to taking Venezuelan crude oil or refined products in exchange for vessels.

One source said that the PDVSA’s tanker fleet was too small to allow for increases in domestic oil production or exports.

PDVSA didn’t respond to our request for comment.


The PDVSA’s fleet, consisting of around 30 tankers that are owned, is now stuck in Venezuelan waters because of underinvestment, lack of repairs, and other factors, according to Refinitiv Ekon data.

U.S. sanctions have caused a drop in oil and country’s exports to petroleum, dropping from 1.5 million barrels per daily (bpd) in 2018 to 650,000 last year.

U.S. sanctions have prevented PDVSA from renewing vessels’ insurance or classification. These certificates certify that they are safe for sea. In recent years, this has made it unable to export the vessels. Instead, the shipowner relies on a number of tankers to lift crude to Venezuelan ports.

One of the proposals Reuters saw offered five Aframax tanksers with the ability to transport 700,000. barrels under a lease agreement with an option for purchase.

PDVSA had to pay $22,500-35,000 per day, for a maximum of 12 months, to lease the vessels under a contract with varying terms. According to the proposal, these ships were to be gradually replaced with newer ones over the next year. Payment for new tanksers would come through the purchase of four million barrels worth $300 million in Venezuelan oil.

It also suggested that PDVSA be made to obscure its ownership of the tankers via a chain intermediaries. If sanctions remain in force, this would decrease the chance of U.S. retentions and seizures.

PDVSA 2020 was willing to ship its own crude oil. This included calculating the prices in crude supply agreements to assist customers who struggle to hire vessels. But the contracts were not long-lasting due to a shortage of Venezuelan vessels.

In addition to the three very large crude carriers that it purchased from China, PDVSA also lost them all in payment disputes. PDVSA was forced to dispatch a team to save the last one that had been in trouble for several weeks in Asia earlier this year.

Between 2019 and 2020, Washington blacklisted operators and vessel owners that transported Venezuelan oil. However, similar maritime sanctions have not been imposed in the past year. Despite these measures by the U.S., shipping companies continue to avoid Venezuelan waters, resulting in large discounts for South American oil.