Venezuela's President Nicolas Màduro. Picture: REUTERS
Venezuela's President Nicolas Màduro. Picture: REUTERS

Houston/Moscow — Russian oil products are making their way to sanction-stained Venezuela, affording a reprieve for the Latin American nation as it battles persistent fuel shortages.

Venezuela received at least 616,000 barrels of petrol and 500,000 of vacuum gas oil (VGO), a feedstock used to produce petrol, in June and July. The cargoes sailed from the Black Sea port of Taman to Malta, where they were transferred to other vessels heading to Venezuela, according to people familiar with the cargoes and ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

More Russian cargoes could be coming as the vessel commander, which loaded VGO in Taman in late July, is also heading for Malta, one of the people said. Tanker-tracking data confirms the movement.

The fuel shipments could help Venezuela ease its petrol crisis. Once an exporter of petrol to the Caribbean and the US East Coast, the country must now import almost of all its fuel amid breakdowns at its domestic refineries. Before sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump, Venezuela imported most of its petrol from the US and India, but recently switched to supplies from Turkey, Latvia, Greece and now Russia.

It’s a long trip. Petrol vessels from Russia take 30 days to get to Venezuelan shores, while supplies from the US arrive in a little more than a week, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Russia is probably charging a premium for these cargoes because of sanctions,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates. “It’s unusual that Black Sea petrol is making its way over to this side of the Atlantic,” he said in a phone interview from Houston.

Russia has been a traditional ally with Venezuela, with the Kremlin voicing support to Nicolás Maduro on many occasions after relationships between governments in Caracas and Washington deteriorated. Russia’s largest oil producer, Rosneft, has received crude oil from Venezuela state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela under pre-payment supply deals. Russia is also one of the largest foreign investors in Venezuela’s upstream segment.

Bloomberg