June 16, 2020 / 8:26 PM / 19 days ago

CORRECTED-Venezuela's oil exports plummet as shipping contracts get suspended

(Corrects figure in 5th paragraph to 452,000 bpd instead of 425,000 bpd)

By Marianna Parraga

June 16 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s oil exports have fallen nearly 28% in the first half of June, on course for its lowest level in over 70 years as tanker owners and operators suspend contracts for transporting crude from once South America’s largest oil supplier, according to documents and data on Tuesday.

Shipping firms are avoiding Venezuela after the United States earlier this month blacklisted four vessels and their owners for transporting the country’s crude.

Several shippers have turned tankers away from Venezuela’s waters in the face of increasingly aggressive U.S. efforts to isolate and oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro by throttling the oil revenue that funds his government.

State oil firm PDVSA and its partners in joint ventures have exported seven cargoes of crude and fuel so far in June to long-time customers including Italy’s Eni, Spain’s Repsol and Cuba’s state-run Cubametales, according to internal company documents and Refinitiv Eikon data.

That is an average of 325,000 barrels per day (bpd), down from the 17-year low of 452,000 bpd in May. If this level of exports continues for the rest of the month, the average could be the lowest seen since the 1940s. Monthly data is not available from before 2000, but annual averages were last around these levels in 1942-1945.

In early 2019, before sanctions, Venezuela exported about 1.4 million bpd, according to Eikon data. The nation no longer publishes monthly data on production or exports.

As of June 15, PDVSA and vessel operators had canceled five other cargoes scheduled to load this month, according to the company’s documents.

The fall in exports has forced PDVSA to cut output because storage is full.

Among the seven cargoes that have sailed is the Liberia-flagged Respect operated by NGM Energy SA and carrying 2 million barrels of Venezuelan heavy crude, the data showed.

Two vessels managed by Greece-based firm Delta Tankers Ltd, the Delta Med and the Delta Captain, also departed for Europe this month, while another three operated by the same company are loading or headed to Venezuela.

PDVSA, Venezuela’s oil ministry and Cuba’s government did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Repsol, which along with Eni, has received Venezuelan oil as repayment for dividends and debt, said the company is fully compliant with international laws and regulations.

Eni confirmed it plans to take two Venezuelan oil cargoes this month as part of a “receivables recovery plan.” It said it is in full compliance with U.S. sanctions and in continuous dialogue with U.S. authorities.

NGM Energy, which earlier this week said it had canceled a chartering contract to transport Venezuelan crude on the tanker Commodore, declined to comment on the Respect. Delta Tankers did not reply to information requests. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga, additional reporting by Isla Binnie in Madrid, Stephen Jewkes in Milan and Marc Frank in Havana Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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