THE Cyprus maritime and business sector is being used by shipowners in the European Union to register and flag tankers involved in Venezuelan oil trades with tacit acceptance from the republic’s shipping ministry, a Lloyd’s List investigation has found.
By Lloyds List
At least 11 elderly tankers involved in Venezuelan trades have moved to the Cyprus flag over the past 12 months and ownership shifted to a series of newly incorporated single-ship companies in Limassol, according to Companies House records.
It is the first time that an EU member country has been observed registering and flagging vessels shipping US-sanctioned crude from the South American country.
The influx of tanker tonnage to the Cyprus flag registry, the world’s 11th-largest, signals a strategic shift from owners and the Republic of Cyprus and tests the limits of US enforcement.
US sanctions, first imposed on Venezuela January 2019, have restricted or limited trade with its government or its state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA).
However, the legal position of non-US persons or companies without links to the US is opaque.
Although the EU has imposed sanctions on some Venezuelan citizens, unlike the US these do not directly cover Venezuela’s oil and shipping sector.
There is, therefore, no suggestion that any of the Cyprus-flagged vessels tracked by Lloyd’s List have breached any sanctions.
The country’s deputy shipping ministry told Lloyd’s List the Republic of Cyprus was only committed to enforcing European Union and United Nations sanctions and not those imposed by the US.
Cyprus “has no competence or legal basis for enforcing sanctions that have not been imposed by either the UN or the EU,” the ministry said in an emailed response.
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