Russian oil transfer to Venezuela took place off Maltese coast

FILE PHOTO: Oil tankers pass through the Strait of Hormuz, December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

An extensive transfer of Russian oil products bound for Venezuela, had taken place off Malta’s coast during the first half of last year, media reports and data reveal.

According to the media outlets Bloomberg and Argus, between 430,000 and 600,000 tonnes of different oil products from Russia had been transferred ship-to-ship using 13 tankers.

Although the process is a regular occurrence off the Maltese coast, this long-haul ship-to-ship transfer of products to Venezuela, is reported to have started this year between January and June. This data was collected by the oil analytics firm Vortexa. According to the track of transfer, the vessel carrying the initial oil products left the Black Sea Port at Taman.

US sanctions

It is reported that around 330,000 tonnes of ‘clean’ products including Naphtha were transferred. This also included a shipment of vacuum gasoil and middle distillates. Normally this product is taken to Venezuela via Tuapse in the Black Sea.

The product is key for dilution with heavier crude for use in road transport. Venezuela’s shipment comes as US sanctions have stopped them obtaining US-made naphtha.

The reports based on Vortexa state that between 20,000 and 25,000 tonnes of gasoline and components, were conveyed between Ust-Luga to the destinations of Amuay By and El Palito back in February.

The reports also outline that 280,000 tonnes of Russian shipped oil products to the United States came via Malta in the first half of the year, a reduction from the 440,000 tonnes in 2018.

Vacuum gas oil (VGO) and ‘straight run-oil’ are conveyed through Malta to the US under very strict regulations.

Flight plans

The news of the oil products transfer comes following reports of the Russian government seeking air space fly-over rights from the Maltese, in order to supply ‘humanitarian’ items to Venezuela.

The Prime Minister had denied the Russian government from Russia using the airspace, prompting the embassy to warn that there would be consequences.

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The flights were understood to originate from Damascus and Khmeimim in Syria, across Malta and to Caracas Venezuela.