Special Report: UAE emerges as hub for companies helping Venezuela avoid U.S. oil sanctions | Reuters
In June, the United States imposed sanctions on half a dozen oil tankers managed by established shipping firms. It was a major escalation of American attempts to choke off Venezuela’s oil trade.
Within weeks, a little-known company based in the United Arab Emirates took over management of several tankers that had been shipping Venezuelan oil. The vessels got new names. And then they resumed transporting Venezuelan crude.
The company, Muhit Maritime FZE, is one of three UAE-based entities identified by Reuters that have shipped Venezuelan crude and fuel during the second half of this year. Their role emerges from an examination of internal shipping documents from Venezuela’s state oil company as well as third-party shipping and vessel tracking data. Tankers managed by the firms have transported millions of barrels of oil produced by state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, since June, according to the internal documents and a publicly available shipping database.
The activity shows how the UAE, one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East, is a hub for companies helping Venezuela skirt American sanctions. Washington hopes to topple socialist President Nicolas Maduro by cutting off the oil-rich nation’s crude exports.
The three companies - Muhit Maritime, Issa Shipping FZE and Asia Charm Ltd - did not respond to letters sent to their listed addresses, or to emails sent to their registered email addresses. Reuters was unable to determine the ultimate owners of the three. Their ownership and management details aren’t listed in the UAE’s publicly-available corporate registry.
The role of the three companies in transporting Venezuelan oil underscores how a raft of little-known entities has filled the void as Washington has sought to deter established buyers and shipping companies from facilitating the South American country’s crude exports.
Hitherto unknown companies surfaced this year as major buyers of Venezuelan crude, Reuters reported in November. Most of those buyers were registered this year by a Moscow-based trading firm. Russia is one of Venezuela’s closest allies.
Now, a similar pattern is emerging with companies involved in transporting the oil. The three UAE entities identified by Reuters have built their fleets since early 2019 with vessels that have since made mainly Venezuela-related journeys, according to Refinitiv Eikon vessel tracking data and Equasis, the shipping database. New York-based Refinitiv is part-owned by Reuters’ parent company, Thomson Reuters.