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Trafigura seeks to charter tanker to export Venezuelan fuel oil

(Reuters) - Global commodities trader Trafigura is seeking to charter at least one large tanker to export Venezuelan fuel oil, according to two people with knowledge of the deal, a move that follows this week's easing of U.S. sanctions on the OPEC country's energy industry.

Washington announced on Wednesday a broad easing of sanctions on Venezuela's oil and gas sector to encourage a fair 2024 presidential election in the nation. The U.S. first imposed the measures four years ago after President Nicolas Maduro's re-election, which it and other Western governments rejected as a sham.

Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA has quickly reacted to the new authorizations by contacting customers willing to reactivate or renegotiate contracts. Trafigura was a business partner of PDVSA before sanctions.

The trading house is in the market for a Suezmax, Aframax or Panamax vessel or a combination of them, two sources familiar with the matter said. A third source said PDVSA has closed a deal involving Trafigura.

Trafigura did not respond to a request for comment after working hours. PDVSA did not reply to a comment request.

PDVSA's trading division has lost many of its skilled staff with oil traders departing due to low salaries. That means new negotiations could take time or produce few new deals in the six months of the U.S. authorization, according to separate sources.

The state company urgently needs operational vessels to boost exports, and is seeking to resume business relationships with established trading firms formerly banned by sanctions, which has forced it to rely on unknown intermediaries trading its oil at heavy discounts to Chinese buyers.

Venezuela's oil exports average some 695,000 bpd so far this year, with about 430,000 bpd going to China, according to PDVSA's data and vessel tracking.

The head of SLB said the top oil service company is planning a quick return to Venezuela, which holds the largest crude reserves in the world, following the easing of sanctions.

SLB, formerly Schlumberger, is among the very few oil service companies with drilling rigs and specialized equipment in Venezuela, which could speed up any new contract with PDVSA or its joint ventures.

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