Iranian supertanker departing from Venezuela to transport heavy oil

By Marianna Parraga and Deisy Buitrago
HOUSTON / CARACAS (Reuters) - An Iranian flag supertanker was due to set sail from Venezuelan waters on Saturday with 2 million barrels of heavy crude oil from the state-owned oil company PDVSA, according to documents from Reuters and ship tracking services.
The shipment is part of an agreement between PDVSA and its counterpart National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), which will trade Iranian condensate for Venezuela's Merey crude oil. The swaps aim to alleviate an acute shortage of diluents that has reduced Venezuela's oil production and exports, Reuters reported last month https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/exclusive-under-us-sanctions- iran-venezuela-strike -oil-export-deal-sources-2021-09-25.
Dino I, a very large crude oil carrier (VLCC) owned and operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) of NIOC, shut down late Friday, according to documents, a source and monitoring service at TankerTrackers.com Loading of Venezuelan oil in the port of Jose of the PDVSA.
The bilateral oil trade could be in violation of U.S. sanctions against both nations, the U.S. Treasury Department told Reuters last month, citing government orders setting the punitive measures.
The ship reached Venezuela in September with the transponder switched off and carried 2.1 million barrels of Iranian condensate. The light oil fed the PDVSA projects Petrolera Sinovensa, Petropiar and Petrocedeno in the Orinoco belt of the country.
A second load of condensate of a similar size is to be delivered to Venezuela in the coming weeks as part of the six-month swap routine in the first phase.
Venezuela's Ministry of Oil, PDVSA and NIOC did not respond to requests for comment.
PDVSA first launched the exchange last month by sending 1.9 million barrels of heavy crude oil from Merey onto the Iranian flagged supertanker Felicity.
The exchange offers the OPEC nation a stable supply of admixture material that is required to convert its extra-heavy oil into exportable qualities. The pact also supplies heavy fuel oil for blending, refining or marketing to Asian customers in Iran.
Iran and Venezuela stepped up their cooperation last year even under the watchful eye of the United States, which in recent years again imposed sanctions on Iranian government entities, including the NIOC, and blacklisted PDVSA in 2019.
(Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas; editing by Gary McWilliams and Andrea Ricci)

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