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US sanctions more crude oil trade between Venezuela and Cuba

Washington — The US Treasury Department on Friday announced sanctions on two companies and two tankers it said had delivered crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba from late 2018 through March 2019.

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The sanctions, which the US said were imposed in response to the recent arrests of Venezuelan National Assembly members, were imposed on Marshall Islands-based Monsoon Navigation, the registered owner of the Ocean Elegance, a crude oil tanker, and Liberia-based Serenity Maritime, the registered owner of Leon Dias, a chemical and oil tanker.

Treasury said that the Ocean Elegance and Leon Dias delivered crude from Venezuela to Cuba from late 2018 through March 2019.

"The US will take further action if Cuba continues to receive Venezuelan oil in exchange for military support," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Friday. "As we have repeatedly said, the path to sanctions relief for those who have been sanctioned is to take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order."

Neither company could be reached for comment Friday.

Last month, the US sanctioned three Liberia-based companies: Jennifer Navigation, Lima Shipping and Large Range, and three of their tankers, which Treasury claimed facilitated crude or oil products deliveries from Venezuela to Cuba during February and March. It also sanctioned Italy-based PB Tankers and six of its tankers after Treasury said it facilitated a delivery of oil products from Venezuela to Cuba in March.

In January, the US unveiled sanctions on PDVSA, Venezuela's state oil company, which have served as a de facto ban on US imports of Venezuelan crude and an immediate ban on US exports of diluent to Venezuela. On April 28, the US prohibited transactions between non-US firms and PDVSA, involve the US financial system, essentially banning the use of US dollars in all transactions with PDVSA.

Venezuela's oil output in March averaged 740,000 b/d, a 16-year low, due to power outages and sanctions, but output recovered modestly in April to 780,000 b/d, according to the latest Platts OPEC survey, though many oil facilities are still impaired and production remains well below its peak.

The US is considering secondary sanctions which would prohibit all crude and product trade with PDVSA, sources said. If imposed, secondary sanctions would cause Venezuelan crude output to fall to 500,000 b/d by the fourth quarter of 2019 and to 375,000 b/d by the end of 2020, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. Without secondary sanctions, Platts Analytics forecasts Venezuelan crude supply to fall from 825,000 b/d in May to 675,000 b/d by December.

-- Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com