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After Year at Sea, Oil Caught in Venezuelan Tug-Of-War Finally Docks

Lucia Kassai

(Bloomberg) -- An oil tanker caught in the crosshairs of the political battle for control of Venezuela is discharging its cargo after a year and two days bobbing off the South American country’s coast.

The vessel Gerd Knutsen is offloading 950,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil at a domestic port, according to shipping reports and vessel tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The crude, valued at roughly $50 million, belongs to Citgo Petroleum Corp., the U.S. refiner led by appointees of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The Gerd Knutsen docked at the Port of Jose at a terminal run by Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the national oil company controlled by President Nicolas Maduro.

It’s unclear if the vessel is discharging with the consent of Guaido’s Citgo. In December, a shadow board of Citgo directors chosen by Maduro attempted to seize the cargo but was blocked by a U.S. court.

Citgo and PDVSA didn’t return emails seeking comment.

The battle for control of Venezuela’s oil riches heated up after Guaido’s first official visit to the White House to meet President Donald Trump earlier this month. After the meeting, Maduro’s regime moved to imprison six former Citgo executives who’d been living under house arrest.

Jan. 22, 2019: Gerd Knutsen, chartered by Citgo, finishes loading 950k bbl Diluted Crude Oil (DCO), a cargo valued at ~$50mOn Jan. 23, 2019: Trump recognizes Guaido as interim president of VenezuelaOn Jan. 28, 2019: U.S. announces sanctions on PDVSA; Guaido says he’ll name a new Citgo boardOn Feb. 13, 2019: Venezuelan National Assembly approves new board members for CitgoIn December: Citgo tries to block Maduro’s bid to seize Gerd Knutsen’s cargoFeb. 5: Guaido meets Trump at the White HouseFeb. 6: Six Citgo executives under house arrest are taken to prisonFeb. 13: Gerd Knutsen berths at Jose to discharge cargo

--With assistance from Rob Tricchinelli.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lucia Kassai in Houston at lkassai@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Marino at dmarino4@bloomberg.net, Joe Carroll, Carlos Caminada

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