The Malta Independent 19 August 2019, Monday

Russian oil products reportedly shipped to Venezuela via Malta

Sunday, 4 August 2019, 11:30 Last update: about 15 days ago

As much as 435,000 tonnes of Russian oil products completed ship-to-ship (STS) operations off Malta for onward shipment to Venezuela in January-June, according to data from oil analytics firm Vortexa analysed by Bloomberg News.

The agency reports that a total of 13 tankers were involved in the Venezuelan shipments. They loaded mostly clean products — notably naphtha, which accounted for around 330,000 tonnes. But a middle distillates cargo and a shipment of vacuum gasoil (VGO) were also spotted.

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The rare shipment of Russian VGO could be linked to recent efforts by Venezuelan state-owned PdV to boost scarce gasoline supplies in the country, Bloomberg speculates,

It says that while using ship-to-ship transfers off Malta for the creation of larger cargoes for long-haul shipments is relatively common, the trend of onward shipments to Venezuela has developed this year, with no evidence of it having happened in 2018.

The naphtha shipped to Venezuela via Malta this year has was usually loaded from the Black sea port of Tuapse.

Venezuela requires naphtha for blending with its extra-heavy sour crude to create diluted crude for transport and blending. But US sanctions have blocked access to the US-produced naphtha, prompting Caracas to look further afield for supplies.

Direct shipments of oil products from Russia to Venezuela have also occurred this year, Bloomberg reports. Around 20,000-25,000 tonnes of gasoline and gasoline components were shipped from Ust-Luga to Amuay Bay and El Palito in February, according to Vortexa data.

Just 280,000 tonnes of Russian products were shipped to the US via Malta in January-June, down from 440,000 tonnes a year earlier. Products shipped to the US from Malta include VGO and straight-run fuel oil — tight supplies of these products in Europe in recent months could have contributed to the reduction in transatlantic flows.

Venezuela reportedly received at least 616,000 barrels of petrol and 500,000 of vacuum gas oil (VGO) via Malta.

More Russian cargoes could be coming as the vessel commander, which loaded VGO in Taman in late July, is also reportedly heading for Malta.

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