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Russian diesel cargo diverts to Cuba from Colombian waters

·2-min read

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A tanker carrying 300,000 barrels of diesel from a Russian port diverted to Cuba on Friday after anchoring off Colombian waters, ship tracking data showed.

Western sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine has restricted the market for its oil. But Cuba has ramped up imports from Venezuela, Russia and other countries this year to cover a fuel deficit aggravated by a deadly fire at its main oil terminal last month.

The Liberia-flagged vessel Transsib Bridge loaded at Russia's far east port of Nakhodka and entered Colombia's Cartagena anchorage area on Friday, but did not discharge there, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. Reuters was unable to determine if the tanker transferred a portion of its cargo to another vessel at the Cartagena anchorage.

The tanker had signaled Cartagena as its intended destination after passing the Panama Canal. It later changed course and revised its destination to Cuba's Matanzas terminal.

Colombia's newly elected President Gustavo Petro has resumed diplomatic ties with neighboring Venezuela and has announced reforms in the oil industry.

The country's energy ministry told Reuters on Thursday there were no restrictions on the origin of cargos arriving in the country. "Any restrictions would be on the quality of the fuel and authorized importer," a spokesperson said.

However, state-controlled Ecopetrol, Colombia's largest fuel importer, said it was not the buyer of the diesel and had a prohibition on Russia-origin oil cargoes.

Cuba's foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The vessel has been managed by Sun Ship Management since April, according to shipping database Equasis. Sun SM, previously called SCF Management Services, is a unit of Russia's Sovcomflot, according to the parent company's website. Sovcomflot is under U.S., British and Canadian sanctions and has lost insurance by Western firms for its fleet.

Diesel consumption in Latin America has returned to pre-pandemic levels, boosting the need for imports. Some nations, including Brazil and Cuba, have continued importing Russian oil and fuel after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine "a special military operation."

(Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar and Marianna Parraga in Houston, and Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota; Editing by Josie Kao)