HOUSTON/LONDON (Reuters) – The supertanker Yang Yong, which left the Chinese port of Qingdao last September, is carrying Malaysian crude, documents seen by Reuters show. Had a cargo quality certificate.
But satellite images and photos show a Chinese-owned vessel loaded oil four months ago in Venezuela, a South American OPEC member under US oil sanctions.
The Young Yong was one of three ships identified by Reuters, chartered by a little-known company to export Venezuelan oil and used false documents to conceal its provenance. said 11 sources familiar with shipping documents and trade.
Two of those tankers, including the Young Yong, were named by US officials this month for violating sanctions against Iran, one of Venezuela’s closest allies.
Six shipping and oil trading experts told Reuters that the use of false documents to hide shipments from sanctioned countries such as Venezuela and Iran has come amid growing international sanctions. increased compliance risk for oil and trading companies.
“It is becoming clear that certificates of origin cannot be relied upon even when accompanied by official government documents,” said Cari Stinebower, partner at US-based law firm Winston & Strawn. .
The Young Yong was part of a “smuggling network” that the U.S. Treasury Department used on 3 November to transport Iranian oil to finance Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah. was one of several tankers named as The Treasury Department has designated the tanker as a frozen asset and placed sanctions on its owner, Marshall Islands-registered Technology Bright.
The U.S. Treasury Department declined to comment on the involvement of Young Yong and other vessels that Reuters identified as being involved in transporting Venezuelan crude oil.
Stinebower, who previously worked as legal counsel for OFAC, the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions enforcement agency, said the use of false documents to conceal the origin of shipments was pioneered by Iran to evade U.S. sanctions. said. Citing a case she has worked on as a commercial attorney, Stinebower said the technology now appears to be employed to transport Venezuela’s oil, but she declined to provide further details. refused.
Venezuela’s oil ministry and state oil company PDVSA did not respond to requests for comment. The Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York also did not respond to Reuters questions.
From May 11 to 21 last year, a vessel named Comuna loaded 1.98 million barrels of oil at the Venezuelan port of Jose, according to PDVSA documents seen by Reuters.
However, TankerTrackers.com, an independent monitoring firm that specializes in analyzing vessel movements for insurance and shipowner investigations, used satellite imagery and photography to identify the tanker as Young Yong. .
The image shows the ship’s name filled in, but the tanker can be identified by the distinctive white arches adjacent to the bridge, the position of the crane on the deck and the shape of the funnel, according to the owner of TankerTrackers.com. One Samir Madani said:
When the Young Yong sailed from Venezuela after loading with oil, its position transmitter indicated it departed from the West African port of Lomé.
Young Yong then made a stop near Malaysia in early July-August 2021. Meanwhile, on July 8th, a quality certificate was obtained from Singapore-based research institute Saybolt confirming that the cargo was Malaysian heavy crude oil. It has similar characteristics to Venezuela’s Merey 16 crude oil. School year. Certificates measure aspects of the petroleum, such as density and levels of sulfur and metals, allowing buyers to verify that their cargo is within contract specifications.
Saybolt’s U.S. owner Core Laboratories NV (CLB.N) said in a statement to Reuters that it has qualified the crude as a Malaysian heavy oil blend based on documents received from customers and an analysis of the oil’s quality. said he did. The company said it had no reason to doubt that this was the case. It was never identified who the client was.
The quality certificate was shared with Reuters by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), an advocacy group that tracks shipments potentially violating sanctions.
Shipping database Equasis listed the contact details of Young Yong’s owner Technology Bright as managing East Wind Ship Management based in Hong Kong. A Reuters reporter said he could not find East Wind Ship Management at the address listed in the database, nor could he find a contact for comment. Reuters was unable to identify buyers of crude oil in China.
Indonesian officials said in early November that the Young Yong ran aground off the Riau Islands on October 26. A hub near Indonesian waters, according to satellite imagery and vessel tracking analyzed by advocacy groups.
Maersk Tankers chief executive Christian M. Ingerslev said the proliferation of sanctions had led to “separate fleets and separate markets operating in parallel.” He said.
London-based shipbroker Braemar PLC (BRMS.L) said despite US sanctions, the total fleet serving Iran and Venezuela could carry up to 2 million barrels. We estimate that it consists of more than 200 tankers, including about 82 supertankers like Yong. each of the oils.
The US imposed oil trade sanctions on Venezuela in 2019 after calling Maduro’s re-election the year before a sham. Washington has continued to press Socialist leaders to hold fair elections and release political prisoners. Last week, he said sanctions could be eased if talks between Maduro’s government and the opposition parties progressed.
Since the US sanctions, Venezuela has been able to export more than 360 million barrels of oil and fuels, he said. Reuters calculations based on internal PDVSA documents and vessel tracking data.
That’s more than two-thirds of Venezuela’s total oil exports from 2019 to October 2022, according to Reuters calculations.
PDVSA did not respond to requests for comment on these figures.
When asked about the findings of Reuters’ investigation into the use of false documents by vessels carrying Venezuelan crude oil, a U.S. State Department spokesman said, “Venezuela’s sanctions remain in effect.”
The May 2021 PDVSA document listed Yunshu Maritime Ltd as Comuna’s charterer. This is the name Young Yong used to load Venezuelan crude that month. His PDVSA shipping documents and invoice for the shipment dated September 2021 did not provide Yunshu Maritime contact details. Reuters was unable to locate the company’s website or address.
Yunshu Maritime was also the charterer for another supertanker that loaded Venezuelan oil under the name Joy in May 2021, PDVSA’s loading schedule shows. Using satellite imagery and photos, TankerTrackers.com identified the vessel as the Panamanian-flagged tanker Adisa. The tanker was also blacklisted by the US Treasury earlier this month for carrying Iranian oil.
The Treasury Ministry said the vessel is owned by Viktor Artemov, a Ukrainian national who oversees a network of cover companies used to sell licensed Iranian oil and channel the proceeds to the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah. Said it was managed by the company.
Artemov, who is under U.S. sanctions, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Treasury Department named Adisa’s owner Triton Navigation Corp. It is listed on Equasis as managed by Thomarose Global Ventures. Reuters could not find his Nigeria-based company, Thomarose Global Ventures, for comment.
Adisa set up a location signal to appear to have sailed out of Africa with Malaysia as the destination in early June 2021. Vessel tracking data show that the vessel docked in Malaysia from July to early September, switched off its transponder for about a week, and then reappeared near Qingdao in mid-September, where it was unloaded. gone.
However, Adisa’s bill of lading issued by Togo’s West Atlantic Port Services dated June 3, 2021, said the vessel carried 1.89 million barrels of West African mixed heavy crude, according to documents seen by Reuters. is. West Atlantic Port Services did not respond to a call for comment.
Additional reporting by Daphne Psalidakis and Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Michelle Nichols in New York Editing by Daniel Flynn
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