(Reuters) – The second of a group of three Iranian tankers entered Venezuelan waters on Wednesday, carrying fuel for the gasoline-starved nation, which is struggling under a collapsing oil industry and U.S. sanctions that have crippled imports and exports.
The Iran-flagged vessel Fortune reached Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone at 1:45 a.m. local time (0545 GMT), following the same route as the Forest, which docked at Venezuela’s El Palito port on Monday to discharge fuel, according to Refinitiv Eikon tanker tracking data and sources.
The third vessel in the flotilla, the Faxon, is due to arrive later this week to complete a delivery of some 820,000 barrels of Iranian gasoline and other fuels to Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA, according to the data.
The vessels have so far crossed the Atlantic Ocean without any disturbances, according to the data.
PDVSA and Venezuela’s oil ministry did not reply to requests for comment.
Venezuela and Iran, both under U.S. sanctions crippling their oil industries, have strengthened collaboration this year by boosting bilateral trade that so far has included crude, condensates, fuel, refinery parts, gold and food.
The foreign ministries of both nations had a virtual meeting on Monday to discuss trade and a proposal by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro to form a coalition of countries affected by what they called “unilateral sanctions.”
The Iranian fuel is desperately needed in the South American country, where long lines of drivers are waiting for gasoline at service stations as domestic production at PDVSA’s refineries remains insufficient to meet demand.
Protests over the lack of gasoline and basic services such as water, power and cooking gas have also grown, according to non-governmental organizations in Venezuela.
“If ships arrive from Iran or wherever, and even if gasoline is distributed, protests will continue in claim of other rights,” Marco Ponce, director of an organization monitoring social conflict, told journalists on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Bernadette Baum)