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PDVSA orders tankers to switch off transponders



By Argus

Petroleumworld 04 04 2019

Oil tankers waiting to load or discharge cargoes at state-owned PDVSA's (PdV) Jose terminal have been instructed to switch off their transponders and leave them off while operating in Venezuelan waters, two company officials tell Argus .

Satellite and tanker traffic monitoring systems show that 21 out of 23 tankers which last broadcast their positions as anchored in Pozuelos Bay have not issued transponder signals within a specific time period. The two remaining ones -- Greek-flagged Maran Callisto and PdV's Rio Orinoco -- have their transponders on.

The Jose terminal in Anzoátegui state has a capacity of 1.5mn b/d and handles up to three-quarters of PdV's exports and the bulk of its imported products, mainly naphtha used as diluent with Orinoco extra-heavy crude, and gasoline and gasoline components.

PdV's orders to switch off transponders does not include tankers anchored at PdV's other terminals including Guaraguao (Puerto La Cruz) in Anzoátegui and the Amuay and Punta Cardón terminals at the 940,000 b/d CRP refining complex in Falcon state.

Eight tankers currently near Guaraguao in Puerto La Cruz have their transponders on, as do 29 tankers off Amuay and Punta Cardón, including 15 that are owned and leased by PdV.

The order is aimed at masking export destinations and the origin of imported products as Venezuela seeks to evade US sanctions aggravating its operational problems , a PdV official at Jose said.

"The government as much as it possibly can doesn't want the US to know where our exports are going and where imports are coming from, and it wants to hide the identities of the oil companies that continue doing business with Venezuela despite the US sanctions," the official said.

Spain´s Repsol, Russian state-controlled Rosneft, India´s Reliance and Chinese state-owned CNPC are among the oil companies that continue to do business with PdV to varying extents. Although US oil sanctions imposed in January do not have a formal secondary component, Washington is leaning on other countries to stop lifting Venezuelan crude and supplying products.

The brief shutdown of transponder signals is not an uncommon practice in global shipping even though broadcasts are required by the International Maritime Organization. Sanctioned countries in particular often obscure tanker signals. Oil tankers regularly go dark when plying the waters of Venezuela´s close ally Cuba, for example. Broadcast signals also go down off Iranian ports.


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