April 27, 2020 / 3:26 AM / a month ago

Venezuela receives gasoline imports from shipping magnate amid fuel shortage

Customers wait while a fuel dispenser machine is fixed at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela April 23, 2020. Picture taken April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

MEXICO CITY/VALENCIA, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela has received a 150,000-barrel shipment of gasoline from a company owned by shipping magnate Wilmer Ruperti, three people with knowledge of the matter said, as the OPEC nation suffers from the worst fuel shortages in decades.

The shipment from Ruperti’s company, Maroil Trading, arrived on Friday evening aboard the Aldan tanker to the port at central Venezuela’s El Palito oil refinery, said two of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonoymity.

The arrival of the gasoline will only partly alleviate a fuel crisis in Venezuela, whose 1.3 million barrel per day (bpd) refining network has all but completely collapsed. U.S. sanctions aimed at ousting socialist President Nicolas Maduro have also complicated gasoline imports.

Ruperti, who is Venezuelan, previously shipped gasoline to Venezuelan ports in 2002, when a strike at state oil company PDVSA against the late former President Hugo Chavez prompted fuel shortages. The move helped Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, regain control of the sector.

He did not immediately respond to a LinkedIn message seeking comment.

Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil ministry immediately responded to a request for comment.

The Aldan loaded last week in neighboring Trinidad and Tobago, Refinitiv Eikon data show. It has not transmitted a signal with its location since April 22, according to the data.

Despite the shipment, authorities were still dispatching just 30,000 bpd of gasoline to service stations across the country, according to an industry source.

Even with the country in lockdown to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, that is well below fuel demand, prompting long lines outside gas stations and a black market where Venezuelans pay steep prices to fill their tanks.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Tibisay Romero in Valencia, Venezuela; Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Caracas and Mircely Guanipa in Maracay; Writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Richard Pullin

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