(Reuters) - Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA this week began using a new location near La Borracha island in the Caribbean sea for transferring Venezuelan crude from one ship to another for exports, according to tanker tracking data seen by Reuters.
PDVSA [PDVSA.UL], whose exports have been hit by U.S. sanctions, in late 2018 tested the spot near La Borracha, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) off the coastal city of Puerto la Cruz, but it had not used it until now, according to shipping sources.
In recent weeks, the company informed customers about the possibility of moving a portion of the ship-to-ship (STS) transfers it now does near its Amuay refinery on Venezuela’s western coast to a new location away from shore off Los Monjes islands, near the maritime border with Colombia.
Conducting STS operations at these new areas further from shore is more expensive and results in less supervision from Venezuelan authorities, according to the shipping sources and PDVSA customers consulted by Reuters.
PDVSA and Venezuela’s oil ministry did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
The STS operation currently underway near La Borracha involves a vessel that loaded 700,000 barrels of Venezuelan heavy crude at PDVSA’s Jose port in mid-October, according to vessel monitoring firm TankerTrackers.com. The tanker took a “dark voyage” to Venezuela, meaning its transponder was off during its entire trip, making it difficult to identify.
A transponder transmits a ship’s unique registration number, name, location, origin, destination and cargo to a satellite.
The other tanker had been anchored off Venezuelan waters in the Caribbean sea for days before sailing to the STS spot, TankerTrackers.com added.
Photos taken from a nearby tanker seen by Reuters showed the two vessels doing the transfer on Monday. The receiving vessel, which had its transponder online as of Oct. 27, has not departed, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga; editing by Grant McCool