The fifth oil tanker entered the nation’s waters on Sunday, carrying the last shipment of the more than 1.5 million barrels of fuel sent to Venezuela by Iran. Both nations are facing tough US sanctions, with Washington willing to stop the Iranian lifeline that was meant to alleviate fuel shortages in the South American country.
Earlier this week, Venezuela’s military escorted four other ships – the ‘Fortune,’ the ‘Forest,’ the ‘Faxon’ and the ‘Petunia’ – through its exclusive economic zone to their destination. The ‘Faxon’ was the last to arrive at Puerto la Cruz on the country’s eastern coast on Friday.
Meanwhile, one of the vessels, the ‘Forest,’ has apparently unloaded fuel. According to Marine Traffic data, the vessel left the port it had docked at and was en route to an unknown location as of Sunday afternoon.
Washington had earlier warned against helping the Iranian fleet to get to Venezuela. The US Special Representative to the country, Elliott Abrams, told Reuters that the United States government’s pressure campaign against Tehran and Caracas was aimed at ensuring that “everyone recognizes this would be a very dangerous transaction to assist.”
While the White House did not explicitly say it intends to intercept the tankers, the Iranian envoy to the US previously said the vessels may face “the threat of imminent use of military force by the United States.” Tehran has warned against any interference with the ships, warning that would amount to “piracy and a major peril to international peace and security.”
Despite Venezuela having vast oil reserves, its refining capacity has been limited, and its energy crisis has only worsened amid sweeping US sanctions. The restrictions dealt a painful blow to the republic’s oil sector, which accounts for most of its budget revenues.
Tehran is ready to continue fuel shipments to crisis-stricken Venezuela if its government requests that it does so, the Foreign Ministry said, as an Iranian tanker flotilla unloaded its cargo in Caracas’s ports.
The Islamic Republic “practices its free trade rights with Venezuela, and we are ready to send more ships if Caracas demands more supplies from Iran,” Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Monday.