Hurd's Bank, off Malta, acting as transfer point for Russian fuel destined for sanction-hit Venezuela

Russian oil is being sent to Venezuela, using an offshore bank to the east of Malta as a transfer point, bypassing US fuel sanctions

Ships on Hurd's Bank. The bank is outside Maltese territorial waters and not under Malta's direct jurisdiction (Photo: Johann A. Briffa/jabriffa.wordpress.com)
Ships on Hurd's Bank. The bank is outside Maltese territorial waters and not under Malta's direct jurisdiction (Photo: Johann A. Briffa/jabriffa.wordpress.com)

Oil from Russia is being transferred to Hurd's Bank, an offshore bank to Malta’s east, and then transported to crisis-hit Venezuela, bypassing US sanctions, according to reports.

Venezuela’s government has been subjected to various international sanctions and is suffering a fuel shortage, but Russian oil products are affording the South American nation a respite, with Hurd's Bank playing a key role in enabling the transfer.

Hurd's Bank is outside Malta’s territorial waters and does not fall under the island’s jurisdiction.

Bloomberg reported in July that Venezuela received at least 616,000 barrels of gasoline and 500,000 of vacuum gas oil in June and July, with the cargoes having sailed from the Black Sea port of Taman to Malta.

From there, they were transferred to other ships travelling to Venezuela, sources familiar with the cargoes, and ship-tracking data compiled by the media organisation indicated.

While Bloomberg did not make reference to the offshore bank, Times of Malta said on Saturday that it had confirmed that the transfer point was Hurd's Bank, with its sources saying that an informal network to transfer products from ship to ship had been set up off Malta.

“An informal ship-to-ship network has been established off Malta in which products are transferred offshore to large tankers which then proceed to Venezuelan ports,” the oil industry source said.

Bloomberg said that more cargo from Russia could be on its way, since the vessel Commander, which loaded vacuum gas oil in Taman in late July, is also heading towards Malta.

Venezuela was once an exporter of gasoline, but is now almost entirely reliant on imports for fuel, since its domestic refineries have broken down.

The country used to import most of its gasoline from the US and India, but, after Donald Trump imposed sanctions on it, it was forced to switch its supplier to Turkey, Latvia, Greece, and lately Russia.

Supplies from the US used to arrive to Venezuela in just over a week, but from Russia, the trip takes a month.

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