Iran has sent five ocean-going tankers loaded with an estimated 1.53 million barrels of gasoline to Venezuela, a move that has reportedly received threats from Washington. Tehran, in response, promised “retaliation” if the US moves to act against the ships.
The first of five Iranian fuel tankers, the ‘Fortune’, has entered the Venezuelan exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on late Saturday, according to data from Refiniv Eikon.
Ealier, Iran sent the tankers to the Latin American country amid an oil crisis fueled by sanctions imposed on both Venezuela and Iran by the administration of US President Donald Trump.
The other four tankers – the Clavel, the Forest, the Faxon and the Petunia – are currently en route to the country, amid fears in Caracas that Washington could use military force against the Iranian vessels detailed in a letter to UN Security Council.
It seems that the Iranian-flagged oil/chem tanker FORTUNE, carrying gasoline to Venezuela, has now officially entered Venezuela's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).#OOTT #Venezuela #Iran pic.twitter.com/H4cAQZ3dcg
— TankerTrackers.com, Inc. (@TankerTrackers) May 23, 2020
The flotilla is thought to be carrying, by some estimates, about 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and alkylate, a key fuel additive.
According to reports, the Fortune was escorted by the PO-13 Yekuana Navy vessel before entering the exclusive economic zone of Venezuela.
— Sayed Abolfazl?????????? (@IRI_SEAMAN) May 23, 2020
Hours before the Fortune reached the Venezuela’s EEZ, reports emerged that PO-11 Guaiquerí would overtake and escort the Fortune, as PO-13 Yekuana had reportedly been set to return for the escort of the next Iranian vessel in line.
Venezuelan navy vessel PO-11 Guaiquerí will take over escort duty of the Iranian tanker ‘Fortune’ in a few hours. Navy vessel PO-13 Yekuana will return to escort the next tanker’Forest’ with film crews from VTV and TeleSur onboard. #Venezuela #Iran https://t.co/mBFXlCzG7S
— CNW (@ConflictsW) May 23, 2020
Before the Fortune reached the EEZ of Venezuela, videoclips of one of its escorting vessels, the PO-13 Yekuana – while waiting for the boat to arrive – were shown on the country’s national TV and then shared on social media.
Venezuela : Vidéo qui documente le navire de surveillance océanique PC-23 Yekuana de la marine vénézuélienne qui attend actuellement l'arrivée du pétrolier Fortune de l'Iran pour l'escorter. pic.twitter.com/Y9Obd91u8X
— Rebecca Rambar (@RebeccaRambar) May 23, 2020
Tehran has warned Washington that the Trump administration will “face retaliation” if the Iranian fleet en route to Venezuela is challenged.
“If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face trouble caused by the Americans, [the US] will also be in trouble”, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.
The warning came as the White House, according to a report by Reuters, is mulling additional penalties to prevent Iran from delivering fuel to the country. No official announcements from the president’s office on intentions to act against the tanker have emerged.
The Venezuelan oil sector is currently facing a crisis amid sanctions imposed on the country by the Trump administration, leading to fuel shortages in the South American nation.
The blockade is lifted.
Trump has failed.
The 1st of 5 Iranian Petrochemical tankers is now within the neutral maritime boundary of Trinidad & Tobago (a leading member of CARICOM & a country that has opposed U.S. coup attempts in Venezuela). pic.twitter.com/xaaweJ7RyY
— Jeb Sprague (@JebSprague) May 23, 2020