The Iranian tanker Forest entered Venezuelan waters early Monday, according to tanker-tracker data collected by Bloomberg. It headed to El Palito refinery port, said union leader Ivan Freites. It’s one of three vessels bringing hundreds of thousands of barrels of the fuel.
Following years of operational neglect, Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela PDVSA is unable to supply the country with gasoline, idling not only millions of cars and buses but also emergency vehicles and trucks delivering food from farms to cities.
US sanctions restricting PDVSA’s ability to import fuel from international markets have worsened what were once sporadic shortages, touching off days-long queues at filling stations and more frequent unrest. US sanctions have also fomented closer strategic ties between Iran and Venezuela as most international oil and shipping companies avoid Venezuela for fear of risking penalties by the U.S.
Two more tankers, the Fortune and Faxon, are expected to arrive in the coming days. This is the second time Iran has provided gasoline to Venezuela since the end of May, when a flotilla of five vessels discharged nearly 1.5 million barrels of Iranian gasoline and fuel additives, as well as parts for local refineries.
Iran’s shipments signal Tehran’s commitment to aiding its South American ally despite US efforts to stymie such cooperation.
Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei at the time praised the efforts of the crew and captains of tankers that took Iran’s gasoline to Venezuela despite threats by the administration of US President Donald Trump to take action against them, according to Press TV.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has said any attempt by the US to stop them will be met with “a swift and decisive response.”
In a letter to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in May, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued a stern warning against the US' provocative acts through dispatching its naval forces to the Caribbean Sea with the goal of disrupting the course of Iranian tankers carrying fuel for Venezuela.