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US Imposes More Sanctions Against Venezuela, This Time Punishing Maritime Shipping Companies

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US Imposes More Sanctions Against Venezuela, This Time Punishing Maritime Shipping Companies

Solidarity endures and flourishes despite US threats

The United States extended its unilateral sanctions regime on Venezuela’s oil industry on Tuesday, focusing this time on maritime companies who have been assisting the Latin American country in getting its crude oil to market, the U.S. Department of the Treasury said on Tuesday.

“The illegitimate Maduro regime has enlisted the help of maritime companies and their vessels to continue the exploitation of Venezuela’s natural resources for the regime’s profit,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, adding that the US will continue to target anyone to supports Maduro’s regime and contributes “to the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”

Such accusations by US officials seem somewhat surreal given current developments in their own country. A more plausible explanation is that the US leadership is seeking some way to restore its ego after its humiliation by Venezuela and Iran, who successfully completed a shipment of five tankers of fuel and chemical precursors for Venezuela’s oil refineries over the last few weeks, with the last of the Iranian vessels arriving to Venezuelan waters on Monday. The US government did everything possible to prevent the shipments from arriving, and made threats that implied a possible interception of the shipments by force.

The latest measures by the US Treasury target the Panamanian-flagged Athens Voyager, the Maltese-flagged Chios I, the Bahamian-flagged Seahero and the Marshall Islands-flagged Voyager I. The owners are Afranav Maritime, Seacomber, Adamant Maritime and Sanibel Shiptrade respectively.

The Seahero appears to be chartered by Chevron at the moment, carrying a US crude cargo to the Asia Pacific region. It is listing Ningbao, China, as its destination, based on AIS data from Fleetmon. Shipping data show the Chios I is off Italy’s coast, en route from Taranto to Milazzo. The Athens Voyager left the UAE port of Fujairah today and is heading for the Suez Canal. The Voyager I is at anchor offshore Malaysia, having travelled there from the Caribbean. LINK

The action enforcing a strict sanctions regime against Caracas followed recent deliveries to Venezuela of gasoline and alkylate from Iran, another target of US sanctions. The US has not been able to exact a similar vengeance for defying its dictates in the case of the Iranian fuel shipments as all of the vessels involved are owned by Iran, which is already subject to as comprehensive a set of sanctions as the US has been able to devise. In the case of Iran there is not much more that the US could sanction.

“I wish that it had not gotten there,” US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in a podcast interview yesterday. “We know that this will happen again, and the world should watch as we do everything we can to make sure that we enforce these sanctions in ways that make sense for the American people.”

Pompeo claimed the US disrupted transit of four additional tankers that loaded Iranian products to transport to Venezuela, but did not offer any proof.

Two of the tankers referenced by Pompeo are the Bella and the Bering. The Bella appears to have turned off its transponder in the Mediterranean, based on shipping data. The Bering changed course near Greece after transiting the Suez canal and is now signalling a delivery in Asia.

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