Tankers to be blacklisted for trade with Caracas

Sanctions could disrupt global sea trade by raising tanker rates. Vessels that could be targeted include 25 supertankers, which can each carry 2 million barrels of oil. (AFP)
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Updated 07 June 2020

Tankers to be blacklisted for trade with Caracas

  • Some US officials say that President Donald Trump has become frustrated by the failure to oust Maduro, who retains the support of the Venezuelan military as well as Russia, China, Cuba and Iran

LONDON: The US is considering imposing sanctions on dozens of additional foreign oil tankers for trading with Venezuela, US officials said, the latest effort to sever what Washington sees as a lifeline for President Nicolas Maduro.

Some sanctions could be announced in the near term while others could be imposed over a longer period if the trading activity persists in violation of US restrictions, one of the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Four shipping sources said that potential sanctions on at least 40 ships could be imposed soon, although the Trump administration had not finalized a decision.

Such a move could disrupt global seaborne trade by sharply raising tanker rates. Vessels that could be targeted include 25 supertankers, which can each carry a maximum of 2 million barrels of oil, and 17 smaller vessels, the sources said.

“The net effect may be a clear message to all ship owners: consider Venezuela off limits,” said a senior US official. A State Department spokesman said that US authorities “continue to engage with companies in the energy sector on the possible risks they face by conducting business with PDVSA,” but did not directly address the question about the expected sanctions.

“Flag registries, shipping companies and their associated suppliers/vendors be warned: Illegal transactions with the illegitimate regime of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro may subject you to crippling financial and economic sanctions,” the White House’s National Security Council warned in a tweet on Tuesday.

Taking aim at two heavily sanctioned foes, the US is also seeking to deter further fuel shipments from Iran to gasoline-starved Venezuela, US officials have said.

The US and dozens of other nations regard Maduro and his socialist government as illegitimate because of a 2018 election widely seen as fraudulent. Maduro has accused Washington of orchestrating a coup to remove him to gain control of the South American nation’s oil reserves.

US officials have steadily added tankers and shipping companies to the blacklist over their dealings with Venezuela since Washington imposed sanctions last year, and have warned of more targets if they fail to abide by sanctions.

Some US officials have said privately that President Donald Trump has become frustrated by the failure to oust Maduro, who retains the support of the Venezuelan military as well as Russia, China, Cuba and Iran.

Earlier this week the US Treasury said it had imposed sanctions on four shipping firms for transporting Venezuelan oil, escalating the political standoff by curbing the OPEC nation’s crude exports.


India opens vast railway network to private players

Updated 02 July 2020

India opens vast railway network to private players

  • The 167-year-old train network carries 20 million passengers daily
  • India’s railway ministry said it would now permit businesses to run trains along 109 routes
MUMBAI: India has opened up its vast railway sector to private companies, allowing firms to operate trains on certain routes, in a bid to boost its stuttering, virus-hit economy.
The 167-year-old train network carries 20 million passengers daily but is plagued by deadly accidents, rickety infrastructure, lack of modern amenities and poor investment.
In an announcement late Wednesday, the railway ministry said it would now permit businesses to run trains along 109 routes, inviting bids from firms weeks after New Delhi opened up coal mining to the private sector.
“This is the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over Indian Railways network,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers,” it added.
The project will require an investment of $39.8 million and private players will have to pay the government fixed haul charges and a percentage of profits determined during the bidding process.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to privatize a range of industries that have been under state control for decades, sparking criticism from the opposition Congress party.
“Now the government is in a desperate mood to sell a great chunk of one of our largest national asset #IndianRailways,” Congress politician Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury tweeted.
“Privatization cannot be construed as a panacea of railways malady,” he added.
The tottering network is notorious for accidents, with 15,000 passengers killed every year according to a 2012 government report that described the deaths as a “massacre.”
Asia’s third-largest economy has been clobbered by the pandemic and a months-long lockdown, growing at its slowest pace in at least two decades last quarter.
The shutdown, which put millions out of work overnight, is widely expected to plunge the country into recession.
Fears for the economy prompted the government to allow many businesses to resume operations starting last month despite an ongoing increase in infections, which have now crossed 600,000.
Even before Modi announced the lockdown in late March, the economy was struggling to gain traction with sluggish growth, record unemployment and a flurry of bad loans making banks reluctant to lend.