The lead vessel of a five-tanker flotilla carrying fuel supplied by Iran to gasoline-thirsty Venezuela was set to arrive at one of state-run PDVSA’s ports on Sunday, escorted by the military, according to Refinitiv Eikon data and Venezuelan officials.
Iran is providing Venezuela with 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and components in a move criticized by U.S. authorities as both nations are under sanctions, according to the governments, sources and calculations by TankerTrackers.com.
The gasoline is desperately needed in Venezuela as its refining network has been operating this year at about 10% of its 1.3 million-barrel-per-day capacity, forcing it to rely on imports amid U.S. sanctions that limit the sources and types of fuel it can receive.
Tanker Fortune was due to arrive PDVSA’s El Palito port, a facility close to the country’s capital, according to a company source and the Eikon data showing its trajectory. The second vessel, the Forest, was about to reach the Caribbean sea, and the three remaining vessels were crossing the Atlantic, the data showed.
PDVSA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
A U.S. senior official last week told Reuters that measures could be imposed due to the supply but did not elaborate on the options. Washington has steadily escalated sanctions on PDVSA as part of its plan to oust President Nicolas Maduro, a socialist who has overseen a six-year economic collapse.
The two OPEC nations have previously helped each other in the face of U.S. sanctions. In 2010-2011, PDVSA sent fuel to Iran, which was under sanctions aimed at stifling its nuclear program.
Even though a spokesperson from the Pentagon said he was unaware of any military move planned against the vessels, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday warned of retaliation if Washington caused problems for the tankers.