A very large partially loaded oil tanker from Saudi Arabia is heading to Venezuela in an extremely rare shipment between the two oil producers and OPEC members, S&P Global Platts trade flow data showed on Friday.
The very large crude carrier (VLCC)—one capable of carrying up to 2 million barrels of crude oil, refined oil products, or condensate—is owned by Saudi tanker company Bahri. The super tanker, Abqaiq, left the Yanbu port on the Red Sea on January 20 and is scheduled to arrive at Venezuela’s main crude oil terminal of Jose on February 11, according to Platts tanker flow data.
This is a very unusual voyage for a Saudi oil tanker as no tanker owned by Saudi Arabia has been spotted to have made the trip to Venezuela in at least the past two years, Platts data show. Other Bahri-owned tankers currently in the Atlantic Ocean have their final destinations set for the U.S. Gulf Coast, which is the conventional destination of Saudi tankers sailing in the Atlantic.
Shipping sources tell Platts that the tankers owned by Bahri are being exclusively used by Saudi state oil giant Saudi Aramco to ship crude oil or refined oil products.
The ship is partly loaded, so there could be two possible explanations, according to Platts—one is that the tanker is shipping Saudi light oil or condensate to Venezuela, the other is that it could load Venezuelan crude oil to later ship it to another region.
The light oil/condensate delivery scenario could be a plausible one, because with the new U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and its state oil firm PDVSA, Venezuela can’t import naphtha from the U.S. to use it as a diluent to blend with its extra heavy crude oil to make it flow for exports.
Yet another possible explanation for the very rare trip could be that the tanker crew may have incorrectly entered the destination, according to Platts.