MEXICO CITY/LONDON (Reuters) – Oil tankers that were sailing toward Venezuela have turned around and others have left the country’s waters as the United States considers blacklisting dozens of ships for transporting Venezuelan oil, according to shipping data and industry sources.
The threat of tighter sanctions is already disrupting the global shipping market. Chinese oil firms are considering whether to decline to charter any tanker that has visited Venezuela in the past year, no matter where the ship is now or for what voyage, four shipping sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Washington is seeking to oust the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro by choking the oil exports that provide its main source of income. The measures have contributed to a fall in Venezuelan oil exports to a 17-year low and deepened the country’s economic crisis, but Maduro has held on – to the frustration of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
The United States may add dozens more tankers to an existing blacklist, U.S. sources told Reuters last week. That would make it more difficult for state firm PDVSA to deliver oil to refineries abroad. Exports dropped to about 452,000 barrels per day in May, the lowest since a national strike paralyzed the economy and hit exports between 2002 and 2003.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Twitter on Tuesday that Washington was attacking Venezuela’s economy by blocking foreign revenue that could be used to import humanitarian goods, including food and medicine. The U.S. State Department did not immediately comment.
Malta-flagged tanker Seadancer, operated by Greek firm Thenamaris Ships Management and chartered by Thai refiner Tipco Asphalt, returned to Gibraltar after waiting in the Atlantic Ocean for a week, according to Refinitiv Eikon tracking data.
Tipco Asphalt told Reuters on Tuesday the company had dropped plans to use the vessel, which had previously been on course for waters off the coast of Venezuela at Amuay, according to the Eikon data and PDVSA’s export schedules.
The Seadancer was scheduled to load 1 million barrels of Venezuela’s Boscan crude for shipping to Malaysia’s Kemaman refinery, operated by Tipco, according to the schedules.
Another vessel operated by Thenamaris that had loaded crude in Venezuela in February, the Seahero, was blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department last week.
A second Malta-flagged tanker expected in Venezuela, the Novo, made a U-turn this week in the Caribbean. The vessel was scheduled to transport 1 million barrels of Hamaca crude in June to Singapore, Eikon and PDVSA data showed.
A loading window assigned for the Novo was canceled on June 6 after the chartering contract was suspended, according to the PDVSA schedules reviewed by Reuters. The tanker is operated by Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd, which also manages the Chios I, blacklisted last week by the U.S. Treasury.
PDVSA, Thenamaris Ships Management and Dynacom Tankers did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
As word spread on the possibility of more…