On 29 December, a special report from News 18 reported that, within weeks of US sanctions being imposed, a little-known company based in the UAE took over management of several tankers that had been shipping Venezuelan oil. The vessels got new names – and then they resumed transporting Venezuelan crude. It is one of 3 UAE-based entities identified by Reuters that have shipped Venezuelan crude and fuel during the second half of this year. The article says that the UAE is a hub for companies helping Venezuela skirt American sanctions. The US hopes to topple socialist President Nicolas Maduro by cutting off the country’s crude exports. The article says that determining who’s behind a tanker can be difficult. Oil tankers often are run by a management firm that is in charge of the crew and can administer freight contracts. The management company can be a separate entity from the registered owner, which is typically a special purpose vehicle that owns just that vessel. But it is also common for the manager to own the special purpose vehicle (SPV). For most in the industry, the main point in using SPV is to insulate owners and managers from liability, not avoiding law enforcement. Still, changes to a ship’s ownership and management registrations can blur who is in control, especially if the vessel is registered in jurisdictions with loose disclosure requirements.
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