Chinese oil trading companies are mulling over a halt in chartering tankers that have called at Venezuelan ports over the past year as Washington steps up sanctions against the Caracas government, Reuters has reported, citing unnamed sources from the shipping industry.
This time, the focus of attention of the U.S. administration is shipping companies and more specifically, tanker owners and users. The vessels will be added to a blacklist, according to plans, and some that are en route to Venezuela are already turning back, according to the Reuters sources.
“Anything on the potential sanctions list will just become toxic,” one of the sources said. “No one will touch it until it’s clear what the rules will be.”
Bloomberg, meanwhile, cited another unnamed source who said Washington was planning to add as many as 50 tankers to its blacklist and will seek to cut off oil and fuel trade between Venezuela and Iran.
According to a brokerage that Reuters spoke to, there were as many as 77 tankers that have called at Venezuelan ports over the past 12 months, which puts them at risk of being blacklisted.
The two countries, who are both suffering severe U.S. sanctions already, have been forging a close relationship, with Iran supplying five tankers of fuel to the fuel-starved South American nation, as well as equipment and workers for its refineries.
Venezuela is in the grips of a major gasoline shortage as refineries are unable to operate at run rates higher than 10 percent because of a shortage of diluents necessary for the production of fuels as well as an urgent need for repairs.
At the time when the first tankers with Iranian fuel began arriving in Venezuela, Washington officials said the U.S. administration was considering retaliation for the move but declines to provide any details. The tanker blacklisting seems to be that retaliation.