Published On: Mon, Oct 23rd, 2017

PDVSA blocked from using NuStar’s Statia terminal over unpaid bills

NuStar-tanks-Eustaius-StatiaORANJESTAD - Venezuela’s state-run petroleum firm PDVSA has been barred from using a NuStar Energy oil storage terminal in the Caribbean over $26 million in unpaid bills, according to documents reviewed by Reuters, halting delivery of a cargo to an oil trader.

The suspension was triggered when PDVSA missed a payment for use of NuStar’s Statia facility on the island of St. Eustatius, according to company documents viewed by Reuters.

“We should not load this cargo,” wrote NuStar Vice President James Calvert in response to a loading request, according to one document. NuStar’s refusal to retrieve the oil over what amounts to nearly a year’s worth of monthly fees shows how recurring legal and trade disputes are disrupting PDVSA’s ability to deliver oil to foreign customers, which generate more than 90% of the country’s export revenue.

Shipping delays and quality concerns are also jeopardizing the OPEC-member country’s crude sales, the lifeblood of its troubled economy. The suspension comes months after PDVSA had expanded its NuStar storage contract following a payment dispute with Buckeye Partners, a major distributor of petroleum in the US, over a Bahamas storage facility.

NuStar’s refusal and other details of PDVSA’s payment problems emerged after trader Trafigura sought to load a cargo of Venezuelan oil held at Statia, a tiny Dutch island in the Caribbean. Trafigura was the winner of a court-ordered auction of heavy crude intended to help resolve a separate billing dispute between PDVSA and units of Russian state-run conglomerate Sovcomflot.

NuStar first sought fees for the stored oil from PDVSA. On Oct. 10, after receiving no response from the Venezuelan firm, NuStar sent a $287,500 invoice to Sigma Navigation, a unit of Sovcomflot.

NuStar offered to allow the oil to be loaded by Oct. 20 if payment was made before that date. That request led to a series of exchanges between representatives of the three companies. In one, a law firm representing Sigma alerted PDVSA’s lawyers that its client was willing to pay the NuStar bill but reserved the right to seek repayment as part of the broader claim, according to documents.

Sigma’s lawyers also revealed in emails that, according to its talks with NuStar, the US firm was claiming PDVSA owed it another $26 million for accumulated unpaid Statia storage fees.

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