The US confirmed on Friday that it seized 1.116 million barrels of Iranian fuel that was bound for Venezuela. President Trump said the four oil tankers that are carrying the fuel are headed to Houston.
“We have four tankers. They are going to Houston, and they’re there … Iran is not supposed to be doing that. And so we did — we seized the tankers, and we’re moving them, and moved, to Houston,” President Trump said at a press conference on Friday.
It is not clear how exactly the shipment was seized. With US sanctions on Venezuela targeting the maritime industry, it is possible the shipowners were threatened with the loss of registration or insurance, which could have been enough for them to comply and sail to a US port.
The Department of Justice said in a statement on the matter that the US filed a complaint “seeking to forfeit all petroleum-product cargo aboard four foreign-flagged oil tankers.” The DOJ statement said with “the assistance of foreign powers,” the seized fuel is now in “US custody.”
With both countries under heavy US sanctions, Venezuela and Iran are natural trading partners. Venezuela is facing a gasoline shortage, with US sanctions making it impossible for the oil-rich country to process oil into gasoline. Iranian tankers carrying gas made it to Venezuela in May, drawing the ire of Washington.