US Targets Maritime Industry in Economic War on Venezuela

Crushing sanctions bring Venezuela's oil exports to lowest point in 80 years

US sanctions on Venezuela have steadily increased since 2017, and the latest round targets the maritime industry, discouraging ship owners from doing business in the South American country. According to a report published by Reuters, several companies that provide vessels with certifications and insurance have withdrawn their services from tankers involved in the Venezuelan oil trade.

Washington’s economic sanctions have decimated Venezuela’s oil industry, bringing oil exports to their lowest levels in nearly 80 years. The latest measures targeting the maritime industry are driving away what few ship owners still carry Venezuelan oil.

Classification societies provide ships with certification that is needed for the vessel to be insured. The US is pressuring classification societies to withdraw certification from ships that have violated US sanctions.

The pressure is working; multiple classification societies have withdrawn their services from tankers operating in Venezuela. The services can only be restored when the US removes the vessels from a list of sanctioned entities after the ship owners agree to stop carrying Venezuelan oil, according to the Reuters report.

Insurers are also under pressure to withdraw insurance from ships operating in Venezuela. This puts ships at the mercy of the US since uninsured vessels are a liability and usually not allowed into port, leaving them stranded at sea.

Elliot Abrams, President Trump’s envoy to Venezuela, spoke with Reuters about the new sanctions. “There are people who don’t cooperate … We’ll go after the ship, the ship owner, the ship captain,” Abrams said.

Iran has been selling gasoline to Venezuela, a move that has drawn the ire of Washington. But with Iran also under heavy US sanctions, the Islamic Republic has nothing to lose, and with Venezuela purchasing the gas with gold, the two countries will likely continue to be trading partners.

As in most cases, US sanctions have a devastating effect on Venezuela’s civilian population. A report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research released in April 2019 determined the sanctions played a part in the death of 40,000 Venezuelans from 2017 – 2018.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.