Mexico becomes Cuba’s second largest oil supplier

Mexico becomes Cuba's second largest oil supplier

HAVANA, Aug 11th.  Mexico would have sent around 2,000,000 barrels of oil to Cuba in the last four months, thus becoming the second-largest supplier of fuel to the Island, only behind Venezuela and even ahead of Russia.

According to the monitoring of tankers carried out by Reuters, since last July the ship Vilma, with the Cuban flag and belonging to the business conglomerate of the GAESA military, has made two trips from the Mexican terminal Pajaritos to the Cuban refineries in Cienfuegos and Havana.

According to Refinitiv Eikon data, the vessel previously transported Venezuelan crude and fuel to Cuba.

A verified through the Vessel Finder naval monitoring site that the ship left Cienfuegos on July 23 and since then its locator has been turned off.

On that site, it is stated that the ship was on the 15th of the same month in the Mexican port of Coatzacoalcos and on the 11th in Pajaritos. Between July 5 and 7, she remained in Matanzas.

The Delsa tanker, also owned by GAESA, delivered Mexican crude from Pajaritos to Cienfuegos in June and then set sail for Venezuela, where she loaded oil at the Jose terminal, which she transferred to Santiago de Cuba on August 1. She now finds herself sailing off the radar.

Apart from the previous ones, the Bicentenario ship, of the Mexican state oil company Pemex, has made at least four trips from Mexico to Cuba this year, according to the aforementioned data.

In total, Mexico would have supplied Cuba with some 13,000 barrels a day (bpd) of Olmeca light crude since April, according to the data. This variety is better suited to the old Cuban refineries than the Venezuelan heavy oil.

The Cuban and Mexican foreign ministries, as well as Pemex, did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

According to that agency, the Vilma and the Delsa (named in honor of the deceased wife of Raúl Castro and General Teté Puebla, respectively) are among the few Cuban oil tankers that have not been sanctioned by the Department of Foreign Assets Control Office. United States Treasury (OFAC).

Other Cuban ships have been repaired or inspected in recent years in a shipyard in Veracruz, Mexico, among them the Esperanza, also from GAESA, this one was included in the United States blacklist and is currently in that Mexican port.

A US State Department spokesman told Reuters in April that Washington was “aware that Cuba buys oil from various countries, both sanctioned and non-sanctioned.”

In recent years, Venezuela has struggled to produce enough fuel to cover its internal needs, reducing what it can export. Likewise, its shipments to Cuba this year through July fell to 55,000 bpd from the almost 80,000 that were shipped in 2020.

Mexico and Venezuela were constant suppliers of crude oil to Cuba under the San José Pact in the 1990s. For its part, Venezuela expanded its exports to the island as part of a bilateral trade agreement in 2000, in which Hugo Chávez paid with oil for the thousands of Cuban doctors exported to that country.

Mexico had only sporadically sent shipments to Cuba for humanitarian reasons until this year. This has raised suspicions that the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador could also be paying with fuel for the Island toilets sent to that country.

The fuel crisis that Cuba is experiencing, accentuated since last April, has forced Havana to seek new sources of supply, such as Brazil. For its part, Russia announced in June an agreement for the oil company Rosneft to supply Cuba with 1.64 million tons of oil and derivative products per year.

The first tanker with Russian fuel left in the middle of that month from the port of Tuapse, on the Black Sea, bound for Matanzas.

Cuba has been receiving fuel shipments from Russia with some regularity since last year. At the end of May, the Cameroon-flagged supertanker Limo from Russia, with an estimated 800,000 barrels, arrived at the port of Matanzas.

During the last few days, the Cuban authorities have reported blackouts due to a generation deficit due, among other things, to the shortage of fuel to start the generating sets and fuel oil-based engines with which they complement the inability to respond to the national electricity demand from its impoverished thermoelectric plants, most of which consume heavy oil extracted in Cuba.