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India is set to restart imports of Venezuelan oil after a three-year hiatus, according to brokers and shipping fixtures, as it rushes to take advantage of a US move to ease sanctions on the South American nation.
Private refiner Reliance Industries Ltd has booked two supertankers, C. Earnest and C. Genuine, which are scheduled to load crude cargoes from Venezuela between December to early January.
Another fixture showed Very Large Crude Carrier Eucaly was also hired to transport Venezuelan crude to India in early December, again for Reliance. Together, the three could hold up to 6 million barrels of crude.
A separate Petróleos de Venezuela SA report, however, indicated Eucaly could be sailing to China.
India, the world’s third-biggest oil importer, was a major buyer of Venezuelan crude before sanctions were imposed by Washington, forcing its refiners to cede ground to Chinese competitors from 2021. Oil traders have been watching for a resumption of purchases since a temporary rollback of US sanctions on the South American producer’s oil industry in October.
A spokesperson at Reliance did not respond to an email seeking comment on the matter.
Tankers C. Earnest and C. Genuine are both Liberia-flagged and built in 2022, while Eucaly is older, built in 2005 and carrying a Panama flag, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Shipbrokers cautioned the final destination could still change.
Read more: Venezuelan Oil Sanctions Lift May Deal Blow to China Buyers
The reappearance of India as a buyer is bad news for Chinese refiners, eager consumers of cheap Venezuelan crude.
Discounts offered to China have narrowed over recent weeks, said traders participating in the Chinese crude market, in large part because of India’s return. Private refiners, mostly clustered in China’s northern Shandong province, have been the most resilient customers of Venezuelan oil for the past four years — but they haven’t been active in the market since the second half of October, the traders said, declining to be named as they are not authorized to speak publicly.
India imported an average of around 10 million barrels per month from Venezuela before sanctions began, according to data from analytics company Kpler. Reliance purchased a monthly average of five supertankers from the Latin American producer in 2018-2019, Kpler’s crude analyst Viktor Katona said.
--With assistance from Rakesh Sharma, Lucia Kassai and Sarah Chen.
(Updates with more details in 8th and 9th paragraphs.)
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