REUTERS, MAY 26, 2020
MARACAY, VENEZUELA – The third cargo of an Iranian tanker flotilla carrying fuel for gasoline-thirsty Venezuela was approaching the nation’s exclusive economic zone on Tuesday as the previous two were preparing to discharge, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.
The Iran-flagged tanker Petunia entered the Caribbean Sea on Monday after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, following the route taken in recent days by vessels Fortune and Forest.
The Fortune was welcomed at state-run PDVSA’s El Palito refinery by Venezuela’s oil minister, Tareck El Aissami, who thanked Iran for its support during the crisis, which has forced Venezuelans to wait in long lines for gasoline.
The deal has been criticized by the United States as both OPEC-member nations are under sanctions. A U.S. official said earlier this month that President Donald Trump’s administration was considering responses to the shipment, prompting the Iranian government to warn Washington against any military action.
The vessels did not appear to encounter any interference during their journey.
The second tanker in the flotilla, the Forest, changed its destination to a port serving PDVSA’s Cardon refinery, where it was expected to dock on Tuesday, according to two sources and the Eikon data showing its trajectory.
As it receives the imports, which include gasoline and components for motor fuel production, PDVSA is working to recover a portion of the domestic refining capacity it has lost in recent years due to mismanagement, lack of qualified personnel and delayed maintenance due to limitations under the U.S. sanctions.
The Venezuelan firm, whose nameplate refining capacity reaches 1.3 million barrels per day, increased crude processing for fuel production to about 215,000 bpd this month, from 110,000 bpd in March, according to sources and internal company data.
(Reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Maracay and Marianna Parraga in Mexico City; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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