The US Department of the Treasury is considering sanctioning more than 40 additional foreign oil tankers over their alleged involvement in the oil trade with Venezuela, which has found itself subject to harsh US economic sanctions, Reuters reported on Friday, citing unnamed US officials.
Sanctions against some of the vessels are expected to be announced by Washington in the near future, while the rest are projected to be blacklisted over a longer period in case they continued to deal with the Latin American nation, which is suffering domestic fuel shortages.
The restrictions would reportedly include 25 supertankers, each capable of transporting about 2 million barrels of oil, along with 17 other vessels smaller in size, a move that would reportedly affect global seaborne trade by increasing transportation fees.
“The net effect may be a clear message to all ship owners: consider Venezuela off-limits,” said a senior US official, as cited by the outlet.
While the US Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment by Reuters, a representative of the State Department told the outlet that officials at the administration of US President Donald Trump “continue to engage with companies in the energy sector on the possible risks they face by conducting business with PDVSA (the national oil and gas company Petroleos de Venezuela)”.
The spokesperson did not directly speak of the reported potential restrictions on the foreign oil tankers.
Earlier this week, the Treasury Department announced that it was imposing Venezuela-related sanctions against four companies and four oil tankers belonging to these entities over allegedly dealing with sanction-hit Venezuela.
“Flag registries, shipping companies and their associated suppliers/vendors be warned: Illegal transactions with the illegitimate regime of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro may subject you to crippling financial and economic sanctions,” the White House’s National Security Council said in a statement at the time.
Flag registries, shipping companies and their associated suppliers/vendors be warned: Illegal transactions with the illegitimate regime of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro may subject you to crippling financial and economic sanctions.https://t.co/DFUas66eyh— NSC (@WHNSC) June 2, 2020
Placing companies in the US blacklist means that the properties and assets of these enterprises in the US, if there are any, will be blocked and American citizens will no longer be able to deal with these companies without the threat of falling under sanctions. The sanctions will be lifted if the firms provide proof of “a positive change of behaviour”.
The Trump administration started introducing heavy economic sanctions against Venezuelan's economy back in 2018 in an effort to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with the opposition leader Juan Guaido, supported by Washington.
At the present, Washington has moved to freeze the US-based assets of the PDVSA as part of its efforts to sanction the nation. Caracas condemned the move, saying it was unlawful and accused the Trump administration of seeking to get its hands on the nation’s oil reserves. The subsequent shutdown of many PDVSA refineries forced Venezuela to consider importing fuel supplies to cover its domestic shortage.
Washington's sanctions on Caracas have already affected other nations dealing with the Latin American country.
On Wednesday, the US Department of State announced that it was sanctioning seven Cuban companies, claiming that these businesses are operated by the government of the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Raul Castro "to oppress the Cuban people and to fund its interference in Venezuela".