The first of five Iranian tankers carrying fuel for gasoline-starved Venezuela entered the South American country’s exclusive economic zone on Saturday.
The tanker, named Fortune, reached the country’s waters at around 7:40 p.m. local time (1140 GMT) after passing north of the neighboring dual-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, according to vessel tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon.
“The ships from the fraternal Islamic Republic of Iran are now in our exclusive economic zone,” tweeted Tareck El Aissami, Venezuela’s economy vice president and recently named oil minister.
Venezuelan state television showed images of a navy ship and aircraft preparing to meet it. The defense minister had pledged that the military would escort the tankers once they reached Venezuela’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) due to what authorities described as threats from the United States.
The desperately needed shipments have caused a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran and Venezuela, which are under US sanctions. Gasoline is scarce in Venezuela due to a near-complete breakdown of the OPEC nation’s 1.3 million barrel-per-day refining network.
Iran is supplying about 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and alkylate to Venezuela, according to both governments, sources, and calculations made by TankerTrackers.com based on the vessels’ draft levels.
The shipments have caused a diplomatic standoff between Iran, Venezuela, and the United States as both nations are under US sanctions. Washington is considering measures in response to the shipments, which the administration believes are being paid with gold, a US official told Reuters last week.