Feb 2 (Reuters) – Venezuelan PDVSA’s growing pool of new customers helped the state oil company boost exports in January, but the increase was not enough to offset the cumulative effect of U.S. sanctions, according to documents from the firm and vessel tracking data.
Washington imposed strict sanctions on PDVSA in early 2019, depriving the company of its main export market, the United States.
The U.S. government has since added layers of complexity to the sanctions framework, often interrupting purchases from established clients and making difficult for PDVSA, its joint ventures and customers to find vessels to carry the oil to Asia.
In January, a total of 22 tankers left Venezuelan ports transporting crude and refined products for exports, mainly to China and other Asian destinations, shipping 544,290 barrels per day (bpd), the documents and data showed.
That average was almost 12% higher than volume exported in December, but 43% lower than the 960,000 bpd in the same time period a year ago and 60% below the 1.38 million bpd sent in January 2019, prior to sanctions.
[GRAPHIC: Venezuela’s monthly oil exports: here ]
The newest customers were responsible for buying over 76% of total exports, or 414,000 bpd, while some 29,000 bpd of Venezuela crude and fuel ended up in Cuba, a top political ally of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
PDVSA and Venezuela’s oil ministry did not reply to requests for comment.
A handful of the state-run company’s long-term customers have not resumed loadings after former U.S. Donald Trump’s administration pushed them to pause oil swaps in the last quarter of 2020, according to PDVSA’s documents.
Some of them are pressing U.S. President Joseph Biden’s administration to reverse the ban on crude-for-diesel swaps.
Venezuela’s fuel imports remained at historic lows of below 700,000 barrels, or 23,000 bpd, last month, matching the previous two months.
However, at least two Iranian tankers arrived in the country’s waters at the end of the month carrying gasoline to be discharged in February, according to vessel monitoring service TankerTrackers.com.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Mircely Guanipa in Maracay, Venezuela Editing by Marguerita Choy