Miami – For two months now, the Maltese-flagged oil tanker Alkimos has been spending time off the Texas coast, oblivious to what is happening in federal court in the United States as a result of the sanctions Washington imposed on Venezuela.
The dispute, which had not transpired until now, has all the drama of a pirate movie: An expensive cargo, clandestine marine maneuvers and accusations of robbery at sea.
On one side is Evangelos Marinakis, one of the most important entrepreneurs in Greece and owner of his most successful football club, Olympiakos, and on the other, another tycoon from the Venezuelan shipping industry, Wilmer Ruperti, who has a long history of collaboration with the Venezuelan socialist government.RELATED
The first round seemed to favor Marinakis, whose Piraeus-based Capital Ship Management Corp. operates the Alkimos. On Wednesday, US authorities will auction off the ship’s cargo in Houston: 100,266 barrels of high-octane gasoline, worth approximately $ 5 million. The auction comes after Judge Lynn Hughes ordered the shipment to be confiscated, saying it most likely went to Venezuela, while an arbitration process continues on a $ 1.7 million lien.
“This clearly demonstrates that sanctions work,” said Russ Dallen, who closely follows maritime traffic as director of Miami-based Caracas Capital Markets. “While it appears that this owner did the right thing, there are plenty of unscrupulous roaches in the shipping industry willing to do business with Venezuela.”
The United States has been trying for months to curb fuel shipments to and from Venezuela, in the hope that this accelerates the fall of Nicolás Maduro, by depriving him of the oil revenues that are the mainstay of his socialist government. But the most affected have been Venezuelans, who have to wait days to fill the tanks of their vehicles due to the shortage of refined gasoline in the country.
So far the Donald Trump government has sanctioned more than 50 ships for violating the sanctions. This month, he added five Iranian captains to the list of individuals who will not be allowed to do business with the United States after Maduro appealed to Iran for gasoline, which is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.