LONDON (Reuters) - Syria is facing a halt in imports of diesel needed to power heavy vehicles including army tanks, as a stream of shipments from Russia and other sources has dried up over the past four weeks, industry sources say.
Not one cargo of gasoil, which can be marketed as diesel, has been delivered to Syria’s oil ports Banias and Tartous over the past four weeks, according to port data provided by a shipper. Average cargoes contain around 30,000 tonnes of fuel.
As many as nine cargoes of gasoil were delivered in March, with the last two shipments arriving in early April. The bulk of these deliveries came from Russian ports, but gasoil was also delivered from Iran.
Industry sources say no further shipments of refined oil have been seen to reach Syria since the Cape Benat arrived on April 11.
Oil producer Syria has two refineries, but also needs to import large amounts of gasoil and other fuels to meet domestic demand, both for heating and for transport.
The last cargo was delivered by a Monaco-based shipper who said a tightening of EU sanctions in March had forced the firm to cut ties with Syria’s distribution company Mahrukat.
Non-EU firms could take over as intermediaries, but so far none appear to have acted on the opportunity to step in.
It is not clear why Iranian shipments have also dried up. An Iranian tanker in late March reached Syria with a cargo of gasoil, and left in April with a cargo of Syrian gasoline, in what appeared to be an exchange of refined oil products between allies.
Venezuela’s government confirmed it had sent at least two shipments of fuel to Syria in February, but has not sent any since.
Western sanctions prohibit EU and U.S. firms from buying Syrian oil or doing business with Syrian companies handling imports of crude and refined products.
The EU’s move also forced Greek company Naftomar, previously a mainstay of Syrian imports, to halt deliveries of the heating fuel liquefied petroleum gas used in Syrian homes and businesses.
Reporting by Jessica Donati; editing by Keiron Henderson