Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- Despite American sanctions on both nations, Iran has sent another merchant ship to Venezuela. The Iranian-flagged freighter Golsan departed Iran in mid-May and is currently under way off Barbados, heading into Venezuelan waters. 

Maritime data consultancy believes that the Golsan is carrying parts needed for repairing one of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)'s refineries. Due to sanctions, neglect and sabotage, PDVSA's refining capacity has sharply declined, leading to widespread domestic gasoline shortages. Iran, which already faces strict American sanctions of its own, is also  believed to have provided PDVSA with supplies for refinery repairs by air freight. 

The shipment follows shortly after five tanker consignments of fuel that Iran provided to the Venezuelan government in May. Those deliveries drew condemnation from the Trump administration, which opposes the government of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. The tankers - Fortune, Forest, Faxon, Petunia and Clavel - are now well on their way back to Iran.

The U.S. Treasury Department has taken a strict approach to enforcing its ban on trade with Venezuela. It recently sanctioned four Greek tanker operators and four vessels in connection with alleged oil trading with PDVSA; two of these firms were removed from the list Friday after they agreed to forego further involvement with Venezuelan oil. Two others, Delos Voyager Shipping and Romina Maritime Company, were added to the sanctions list the same day. 

As Iran and its shipping assets are already heavily sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, there are no additional financial or legal penalties for Iranian vessels calling in Venezuela. Iran has warned the U.S. against taking military action against its merchant vessels on the high seas, and semi-official Iranian outlet Noor recently reported that Iran's military has made plans for attacks on U.S. merchant ships if retaliation is necessary.

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. The country’s refineries can produce more than 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of fuel, but they are working at less than 20% of their capacity mainly due to power outages and lack of spare parts following the imposition of the US sanctions.

The Reuters news agency has reported that Iran may continue to ship fuel to sanctions-hit Venezuela at a rate of about two to three cargoes per month. “Tehran plans to keep up the shipments, according to five trading and industry sources close to the Oil Ministry,” the news agency said.

Mexico has also expressed willingness to sell gasoline to Venezuela on “humanitarian” grounds if asked, defying United States sanctions against the South American country.

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