Iran sends biggest ever fleet of oil tankers to Venezuela

Iran sends biggest ever fleet of oil tankers to Venezuela
Iranian-flagged fuel tanker Fortune after it was docked at El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello, state of Carabobo, Venezuela, on May 26, 2020. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: Iran is sending its biggest fleet yet of tankers to South American country Venezuela in defiance of United sanctions to help the isolated nation weather a crippling fuel shortage, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The people said some of the flotillas of about 10 Iranian vessels will also help Venezuelan export crude after discharging fuel, asking not to be named because the transaction is not public.

Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro regime is widening its reliance on Tehran as an ally of last resort after even China and Russia have avoided challenging the US ban on trade with Venezuela.

The country’s fuel crunch follows decades of corruption, mismanagement and under-investment at state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela since the time of Maduro’s late mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela was once a top supplier of crude to the United States and boasted one of the lowest domestic gasoline prices in the world, now can barely produce any fuel.

The last fuel shipments from Iran sent in early October on three vessels are running out, threatening steeper nationwide shortages with hours-long queues at gas stations.

The current fleet under sail is about double the size of the one that first startled international observers in May, crossing a Caribbean Sea patrolled by the United States Navy, to be greeted by Maduro himself upon arrival.

Elliott Abrams, the US special representative for Venezuela and Iran, said in September: “We’re watching what Iran is doing and making sure that other shippers, insurers, ship owners, ship captains realize they must stay away from that trade.”

According to Bloomberg tanker tracking data, several vessels that transported fuel to Venezuela earlier this year, including Horse and Fortune, turned off their satellite signal at least ten days ago.

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