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“Iran sends oil to Venezuela with a ship-to-ship transfer tactic off the Maldives”

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An oil tanker is docked while oil is pumped at the ship terminal of PDVSA’s Jose Antonio Anzoategui industrial complex in Anzoategui state April 15, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The ship-to-ship transfer of crude oil off the Maldives is the latest tactic by Iran and Venezuela to evade sanctions. This according to an exclusive Reuters report published this Thursday.

“A Venezuelan-owned oil tanker sailed in March to a remote location in the Indian Ocean; he encountered an Iranian-flagged ship; he took on a cargo of Iranian condensate and sailed home, according to monitoring services and shipping documents. The ship-to-ship transfer off the Maldives was the latest tactic by the two countries to keep their oil flowing to markets despite US sanctions,” the agency noted.

And he noted that growing energy cooperation between Iran and Venezuela is helping the latter secure supplies to lighten extra-heavy oil and boost exports.

He also recalled that since 2020 Iran has also helped Nicolás Maduro with the shipment of gasoline and equipment to repair the PDVSA refineries.

Maxim Gorky Ship

Reuters noted that the Máximo Gorki tanker, operated by PDV Marina, is the only supertanker left for the Venezuelan oil company. All after losing three other ships to PetroChina Co in 2020 as part of a debt dispute.

“The tanker is mainly used to move PDVSA oil between national ports. But it has also transported crude oil to Asia since Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuelan oil in 2019 », he mentioned.

And he reported that earlier this year PDV Marina had to send a replacement crew to China to rescue Máximo Gorki. This one was stranded for weeks due to mechanical problems.

“In March, the tanker finished transferring a cargo of Venezuelan heavy crude in the South China Sea, according to TankerTrackers.com. Days later, Maxim Gorky loaded Iranian condensate, also via a ship-to-ship transfer 37 nautical miles from the Maldives, from the VLCC Huge, a National Iran Tanker Co (NITC) vessel,” he said.

Reuters clarified that it was unable to independently verify the identities of the ships and that neither PDVSA, nor NITC, nor the Maldivian government responded to requests for comment. However, he specified that the ship-to-ship transfer of crude oil occurred outside the territorial waters of the Maldives.

Ship-to-ship oil transfer off Maldives

The ship-to-ship exchange off the Maldives is something new for Venezuela, Reuters said. But he did say that Iran has conducted at least one previous exchange in waters near the archipelago, according to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a group that monitors Iran-related oil tanker traffic.

“While Maxim Gorky was traveling from Venezuela, Iran was able to send an NITC tanker to meet him near the Maldives. The location is strategically convenient for Iran as it takes about five days for Iranian tankers to get from Khor Fakkan to Malé, the capital of Maldives,” said Claire Jungman, UANI chief of staff.

According to the report, the supertanker docked last week in Venezuela and unloaded part of its cargo of 2 million barrels of Iranian condensate. This after the arrival of the Iranian ships Dino I and Derya, which unloaded heavy crude oil and condensate.

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