April 6 (Reuters) - U.S.-sanctioned Venezuela managed to ship more crude in March directly to China, its main export destination, even as overall shipments dipped modestly last month, according to internal documents and Refinitiv Eikon data.
The South American country’s state-run oil company, PDVSA, and its joint ventures exported an average of 690,323 barrels per day of crude and fuel in March, a 3.9% decrease from the 718,180 bpd in February and a 14.5% fall from the 808,000 bpd shipped in March of 2020.
A total of 25 cargoes set sail from the nation’s waters last month. That was despite mechanical problems at its main oil terminal, Jose, on the eastern coast, which hampered vessel loading, forcing PDVSA to load more tankers through ship-to-ship operations, especially at its western Amuay area, the documents showed.
PDVSA largely offset the hiccups by sending more large cargoes directly to China, which is set to receive about 248,000 bpd of Venezuelan crude and fuel loaded last month, more than double the volume sent in February.
GRAPHIC: Venezuela's monthly exports: here
The vessels to Asia were chartered by about a dozen firms with no previous record in oil trading that have nonetheless been responsible for taking over three-quarters of Venezuela’s total oil exports so far this year, the documents and data showed.
One of the tankers scheduled to carry Venezuelan crude for exports to Asia in March returned its cargo three weeks after loading, citing poor crude quality and failed negotiations with the intended buyer, according to the PDVSA documents and two sources with knowledge of the issue.
PDVSA and Venezuela’s oil ministry did not reply to requests for comment.
In the first quarter, PDVSA and its joint ventures exported an average of almost 648,000 bpd, down 31% from the 945,300 bpd shipped in the same period of 2020, according to the data.
Exports of Venezuelan crude and fuel oil to Cuba averaged 51,290 bpd in March, below the 72,857 bpd sent in February. The nation shipped a 260,000-barrel cargo of jet fuel to its ally Iran, which is also under U.S. sanctions.
Venezuela imported some 28,400 bpd of fuel last month, according to the data.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Mircely Guanipa in Maracay, Venezuela; Editing by Dan Grebler