Petrobras says it will not hire oil tankers that have visited Venezuela

Leading Brazilian oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras), which is state-controlled, told shippers on Friday June 12th that it would not be hiring any tankers that have visited Venezuela in the past 12 months.

The US this year blacklisted oil tankers and shipping companies over their dealings with Venezuela. The Trump administration has also said that it could add to its sanctions list.

Petrobras told Reuters that “we have recently reinforced to our suppliers we would not accept offers from ships that had operated in Venezuela during the sanctions period (12 months)”.

Petrobras has added specific language to its shipping contracts to avoid hiring ships out of compliance with the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations.

Meanwhile, a Venezuelan shipping magnate faces a US sanctions investigation for possibly violating US sanctions. The magnate is suspected of bringing fuel to the country, according to Reuters, citing two senior Trump administration officials.

Wealthy businessman Wilmer Ruperti, a former tanker captain, sent a cargo in April from Trinidad and Tobago, the officials told Reuters.

The roughly 150,000-barrel shipment Trinidad’s Pointe-a-Pierre port aboard the Liberia-flagged chemical/oil products tanker Aldan (IMO 9258014) on April 20th, signalling Aruba as its destination, according to Eikon data. On April 22nd its transponder stopped transmitting a location. According to three sources speaking to Reuters, the ship then went to Venezuela’s El Palito oil terminal for unloading.

Ruperti has had links to Venezuela’s ruling Socialists since the 1999-2013 rule of Hugo Chavez. He has maintained that relationship under President Nicolas Maduro, said Reuters, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Ruperti is best-known in Venezuela for chartering ships in 2002-2003 to import gasoline and help break a strike at PDVSA, a move that earned him a medal from President Chavez.

President Donald Trump’s envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said the Treasury Department, which oversees sanctions policy, would determine the course of the investigation. “I believe that people who enforce US sanctions are looking at his activities,” he said.

Ruperti told the Associated Press in April that he had sent 300,000 barrels of gasoline to Venezuela that month and intended to ship a further million, calling the deal as “humanitarian work”. He added that his lawyers had informed the Treasury Department in March, without receiving objections.

Although the US allows exceptions to the sanctions for humanitarian goods, including in some cases fuel, such shipments required explicit US authorization. Inside sources told Reuters that they did not think such a waiver had been given.

The Treasury Department did not confirm it was investigating Ruperti. It said it receives many disclosures and inquiries each week through official channels about whether activities by individuals or entities are in compliance. 2003-built, Liberia-flagged, 28,259 gt Aldan is owned by Shannon Trading SA care of manager Eurotankers Inc of Piraeus, Greece. It is entered with West of England Club (Claims Team Greece) on behalf of Shannon Trading SA