Bahri refutes US senator’s claim of Saudi ship ‘carrying diluents’ to Venezuela

Ismaeel Naar
Ismaeel Naar - Senior Journalist, Al Arabiya English
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A Saudi Arabian national shipping company clarified on Monday that one of its oil tankers en route to sanctions-embattled Venezuela is empty after US Senator Marco Rubio accused Riyadh of trying to sell diluents to the Maduro regime.

The shipping company said that the vessel was contracted by one of its Indian customers on Jan. 9, well before US sanctions were imposed against Venezuela on Jan. 28.

“Bahri, the national shipping company of Saudi Arabia, clarifies that its oil tanker ‘Abqaiq’ ‎is in ballast condition with no cargo onboard and on her way from the Red Sea to pick up a cargo from the ‎Port of Jose ‎Terminal in Venezuela for one of its regular customers in India,” a statement released on Sunday read.

“Venezuela is a frequent loading destination for Bahri’s oil tankers, delivering cargoes ‎to ports in India and China. Hence, the recent voyage to the Port of Jose is not an ‎exceptional or peculiar one, as lately stated by a media outlet,” Bahri added.

On Saturday, Republican Senator Marco Rubio accused Saudi Arabia of trying to undermine US efforts to support the people of Venezuela.

“A vessel from Saudi Arabia will arrive Monday in Venezuela to sell Maduro diluents that he will use to pump and sell crude and generate income for his corrupt regime,” Rubio tweeted.

Attempts by Al Arabiya English to contact Sen. Rubio’s office in Florida and Washington DC were unsuccessful.

According to oil shipping trackers online, the VLCC Abqaiq departed from the Red Sea port of Yanbu on Jan. 20 and stopped for a day at the bunkering hub of Algeciras in Spain on Jan. 30.

It is scheduled to dock on Venezuela’s Port Jose on Monday.

S&P Global Platts reported on the ship on Saturday and gave three possible scenarios for the vessel’s journey, including the possibilities that it was taking Saudi light crude or condensate to Port of Jose terminal or picking up Venezuelan crude for later delivery to Asian refineries.

The report gave contradictory information when it began by describing the ongoing shipment “unprecedented” but then admits that Indian company Reliance has previously used Bahri tankers to transport Venezuelan crude to its refineries on the west coast of India.

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