(Reuters, 28.Mar.2020) — Three large crude carriers (VLCCs) chartered by units of Russian oil major Rosneft to transport Venezuelan oil left Caribbean waters empty on Saturday after the cargoes were cancelled due to sanctions, according to Refinitiv Eikon data and a document from Venezuelan state-run oil firm PDVSA.
The vessels – which would have jointly exported some 5.7 million barrels of Venezuelan heavy crude to Asia – had waited for weeks near Venezuelan waters to load, but the cargoes were cancelled this week due to sanctions on PDVSA and Rosneft’s trading units, according to the PDVSA export program.
Following weeks of severe oil price falls amid declining demand, oil producers around the world are looking for tanks to store output, with some of them opting for using vessels as floating storage.
The tankers’ move occurred the same day that Rosneft announced its withdrawal from its oil projects in Venezuela through a coordinated sale of assets to an undisclosed company controlled by the Russian government.
It is unclear whether the move, announced at a time when oil prices are languishing around $25 per barrel, would signal any change in the delivery of Venezuelan oil by Russian state companies, which mostly goes to repay Venezuela’s debts.
Two of the three tankers scheduled to export Venezuelan oil had on Saturday changed their destinations after re-bookings: the HRA was sailing to Brazil’s Angra dos Reis port for loading Petrobras crude bound for China, while the Dragon set sail to Gibraltar, according to Eikon.
The third vessel, the Maria Angelicoussis, had not yet set a new destination.
PDVSA had said in previous export schedules that the vessels had faced delays to load Venezuelan oil while waiting for new directions from their owners following the imposition of U.S. sanctions on Rosneft Trading and TNK Trading this year.
Venezuela has struggled to export its oil this month amid tightening sanctions, which has shrunk its portfolio of customers. PDVSA has halted all deliveries to Rosneft.
So far in March, it has exported some 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude and fuel, versus 1.05 million bpd in February, according to PDVSA and Eikon data.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Paul Simao