Belarus tightens bond with Venezuela

  • 2010-10-13
  • From wire reports

VILNIUS - Lithuania has struck a deal to act as hub for an annual 17.5 million barrels of Venezuelan crude oil bound for landlocked neighbor Belarus, reports AFP. “We have agreed to sign the accord by the end of October for the transit via Lithuania of Venezuelan oil heading to Belarus,” said the Lithuanian government’s chief negotiator Deividas Matulionis.
The deal covers 2.5 million tons of crude a year, he said, or the equivalent of 17.5 million barrels. Two to three tankers a month are expected to dock in Klaipeda.

“The oil should start transiting via Lithuania by the start of next year, but it’s possible that it could begin even earlier,” said Rokas Masiulis, head of the state-owned oil terminal company Klaipedos Nafta, which is based at the port. Masiulis said the transit deal was set to run for two years but that Klaipedos Nafta aimed to win a longer-term contract.
In August, the port handled a trial shipment of almost 550,000 barrels of Venezuelan crude for Belarus. Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko has boosted ties with Venezuela in a drive to secure alternative oil supplies amid regular sparring with neighbor and energy giant Russia.

Oil imports into Belarus from neighboring Russia dropped by 40 percent after its former Soviet mentor drastically cut supplies of duty-free oil this year.
The government in the capital Minsk then decided on plans for the import of Venezuela crude via Ukraine and Baltic ports instead.

The two Belarusian refineries are able to process over 20 million tons per year.
Lithuania, which joined the European Union in 2004, has meanwhile pitched trade links as a way to help spur reforms in Belarus and bring the country closer to the 27-nation bloc.