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Iranian gasoline shipments once again heading to Venezuela. Will the U.S. Navy intervene this time?

On Friday August 4th TankerTrackers.com; an independent online service that tracks and reports shipments and storage of crude oil in several geographical and geopolitical points of interest around the world sent an alert to their members. Three of the Iranian flagged tanker ships that had previously delivered refined gas products from Iran to Venezuela, Faxon, Forest and Fortune, all turned off their Automatic Identification Signal (AIS) and visited Port Shahid Rajee in Iran to load cargo's totalling 131 million litres of gasoline.

As of Monday night all 3 of them are still not broadcasting their AIS so it's very difficult to know exactly where they are, we are currently trying to locate them using satellite photos, but thus far have been unsuccessful. The Fortune on their previous trip also sailed from Iran to the Suez Canal making the trip in approximately 10 days so if that is indeed their route we will likely see them turn on the AIS in the next 4-7 days.

In Venezuela the gasoline shortage is continuing to spiral out of control with the return of long lines in the capital and a complete lack of access in the rural areas. The country is well known to have the worlds largest reserves, however Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) the state oil company has not been able to get their refineries running in order to reliably produce gasoline domestically.

In the last several months PDVSA has attempted to restart gasoline production in the El Palito, Cardon and Amuay refineries but a variety of issues keep occurring, and sustained production has not been possible. A lack of investment for years on end coupled with recent sanctions have made repairs to the infrastructure difficult bordering on impossible without expert knowledge of how each refinery operates. Unfortunately as with most areas of the professional workforce in Venezuela, the experts qualified to operate and repair delicate and intricate equipment such as an oil refinery have for the most part long since left the country as their skills can be applied elsewhere.

Once the 3 ships reach the Suez Canal they could be arriving in Venezuela approximately 20 days later depending on the exact route they take. On the previous trip they all used a southern route sailing between Grenada and Tobago which allowed them to enter the Venezuela Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as soon as possible.

On the previous trip the Iranian ships were meet when they entered the EEZ by ships from the Bolivarian Navy of Venezuela, as well as fighter jets from Bolivarian Military Aviation. The reason for this extra security was statements from the U.S. administration that they were looking at the possibility of seizing the ships.

While there have not yet been any threats to this supposed shipment if there was an order to stop the ships the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard is well equipped in the Caribbean to do just that. With no fewer than 7 ships in the Caribbean and the ability to dispatch many many more in the time it will take the tankers to cross the Atlantic ocean.

CG Northland CG Valiant CG Isaac Mayo USS Sioux City USS Shamal USS Nitze USS Pinkney

Written by Simon Bolivar

Information provided by TankerTrackers.com & Marinetraffic.com