The Iranian-flagged tanker ‘Fortune’ has arrived at its final destination, docking at El Palito port on Venezuela’s northern coast. The vessel is the first of five Iranian tankers that set sail for Caracas loaded with fuel.
Satellite images showed the tanker completing a berthing operation at El Palito refinery with the help of two Venezuelan tug boats shortly after midnight on Monday local time.
In order to ensure that the ship reached Venezuela’s shores without any incident, the tanker was escorted by the Venezuelan Navy as it passed through the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The ‘Fortune’ will be followed by another four tankers – the ‘Clavel,’ the ‘Forest,’ the ‘Faxon’ and the ‘Petunia.’ They are expected to bring a total of more than 1.5 million barrels of fuel to Venezuela, which – despite being oil-rich – has faced an energy crisis due to biting US sanctions.
Several hours before the much-awaited arrival of the ‘Fortune,’ the ‘Forest’ became the second tanker from the mini-flotilla to cross into Venezuela’s EEZ. The vessel was reportedly met by the country’s navy as well.
The Islamic Republic dispatched the mini-flotilla of tankers to help Venezuela overcome a fuel shortage as the South American country continues to suffer under sweeping US sanctions.
Both Tehran and Caracas have slammed the restrictions as illegal under international law and argued that they greatly impact ordinary people.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani previously warned that the country would retaliate if the US causes any “trouble” for the ships during their voyage across the Atlantic.
In late April, media reports and US officials claimed that the Venezuelan government was paying for the economic aid from Iran by emptying its gold reserves. Tehran has strongly denied that this is the case.
The US, which has ramped up sanctions against Iran since 2018, condemned the cooperation between the Islamic Republic and Venezuela. “Venezuelans need free and fair presidential elections” and not “expensive deals with another pariah state,” US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro dismissed these attacks, insisting that Tehran and Caracas “both want peace, and we have the right to trade freely.”