U.S. lifts Venezuela-related sanctions imposed on shipping firms, tankers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday lifted sanctions on Marshall Islands-based Delos Voyager Shipping Ltd and Greece-based Romina Maritime Co Inc that had been imposed last month over accusations the companies operated in the Venezuelan oil sector.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s action lifted Venezuela-related sanctions on four companies, including Marshall-Islands based Adamant Maritime Ltd and Sanibel Shiptrade Ltd, as well as on four vessels.

The move, which follows the delisting last month of other Greece- and Marshall Islands-based shipping firms, removed the remaining Greece-based companies blacklisted in June for transporting Venezuelan oil from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Specially Designated Nationals list.

In a statement, a Treasury representative said the delisted entities had committed to cease involvement in the Venezuelan oil sector as long as President Nicolas Maduro remains in power. Washington is trying to oust Maduro, who is accused of rigging his 2018 re-election.

“The primary goal for the imposition of sanctions under OFAC’s various authorities is to promote behavioral change,” the spokesperson said. “The entities and vessels delisted today credibly showed that they have stopped engaging in sanctionable activities.”

U.S. officials met representatives of Greece-based shipping companies earlier this week to discuss Venezuela-related sanctions, which have ramped up since early June, according to two sources familiar with the talks.

The vessels removed from the U.S. blacklist on Thursday are the Seahero, Voyager I, Delos Voyager and Euroforce crude oil tankers, all of which were linked to shipping companies delisted on Thursday.

Thenamaris, manager of the Seahero vessel on behalf of the vessel’s owner Adamant Maritime, said in a statement that there had been full cooperation with U.S. authorities, adding that the ship management company was “adopting a firm policy prohibiting any carriage of crude oil from Venezuela for the vessels under its management for as long as U.S. sanctions against Venezuela remain in place.”

NGM Energy, manager of the Voyager I, said it had “implemented enhanced compliance controls” and would enhance coordination with relevant authorities to reduce future sanctions risk.

Delos Voyager Shipping Ltd and Romina Maritime Co Inc, hit with sanctions by the U.S. in June, had been given until July 21 to wind down activities through a general license that was revoked on Thursday as the companies were removed from the U.S. blacklist.

Washington in January 2019 recognized Venezuelan politician Juan Guaido as the OPEC nation’s rightful leader and has ratcheted up sanctions and diplomatic pressure in the aftermath of Maduro’s 2018 re-election.

Maduro remains in power, backed by Venezuela’s military as well as Russia, China and Cuba.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, Jonathan Saul in London and Marianna Parraga in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann; editing by Jonathan Oatis