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Gasoline suspected to be for Venezuela arrives in U.S. port after private sale

(Reuters) - A vessel carrying some 100,000 barrels of gasoline that a shipping company suspected was destined for fuel-starved Venezuela arrived at a U.S. port on Monday, Refinitiv Eikon data showed, after a U.S. court approved a private sale of the cargo.

In a lawsuit filed in May, Marshall Islands-based Brujo Finance Company said it feared Sea Energy Company, the charterer of its Alkimos tanker, planned to send the gasoline-laden vessel to Venezuela - which is subject to strict U.S. sanctions - and not Aruba or Curacao as Sea Energy initially stated.

Sea Energy said in court filings it did not plan to send the cargo to Venezuela.

Washington has imposed sanctions on state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela as part of its bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro, and warned other companies against doing business with PDVSA. That has exacerbated gasoline shortages in Venezuela, also suffering from low domestic fuel output.

The company that previously owned the cargo, ES Euroshipping, is owned by Wilmer Ruperti, a Venezuelan business magnate with close ties to the government in Caracas.

Late last month, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas approved a private sale of the cargo to Bridgeport, Connecticut-based trader Kolmar Americas for some $2.75 million. Previous attempts to auction the cargo and conduct a court-supervised private sale had fallen through.

Kolmar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The vessel began navigating toward the Vopak Terminal in Houston late on Sunday, the Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

Separately, several cargoes of Iranian gasoline that had been destined for Venezuela and were seized by the United States through a civil forfeiture case remained at sea, after struggling for weeks to discharge in U.S. ports.

Reporting by Luc Cohen in Boston; Editing by Peter Cooney

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