Published On: Thu, Nov 29th, 2018

Court-ordered sale of PdV oil cargo on hold

P1110151WILLEMSTAD - The court-ordered auction of a Venezuelan crude cargo in Curaçao has been postponed on a petition filed by the original purchaser, Thai bitumen trader Tipco, according to sources on the island.

The 380,225 bl cargo of Venezuela's 10.5°API Boscan crude was supposed to have been sold on November 27 to satisfy a  July 25 court judgment in favor of Italy's Energy Coal, a creditor of Venezuela's state-owned PdV. The sale was meant to recover more than $2.4mn and "to secure other claims for further principal sums, interests and costs," according to the 15 November conditions of sale for the cargo.

The heavy sour crude has been stuck aboard the Suezmax tanker Stena Surprise at Bullen Bay terminal since September, the latest in a string of pre-judgment attachments levied on PdV assets in the Dutch Caribbean.

A hearing on the case is scheduled to resume on December 7 in Curacao's Court of First Instance in Willemstad, leaving the cargo in limbo until then.

Energy Coal has a longstanding dispute with PdV over payment for construction of a petroleum coke midstream unit at PdV's Jose terminal. The coke byproduct of upgrading Venezuela's extra-heavy crude has piled up at Jose for years.

The Dutch Caribbean has emerged as the jurisdiction of choice for Venezuela's many jilted creditors because of the ease with which assets can be seized to try to satisfy claims, compared with other jurisdictions such as the US. PdV has extensive assets on the Dutch Caribbean islands of Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire and St Eustatius, including refineries and storage.

The highest-profile case was spearheaded by US independent ConocoPhillips in May 2018 to satisfy a $2bn international arbitration award. The enforcement action thwarted PdV's oil export logistics and led to a legal settlement in August.

PdV settled a separate dispute with defunct Canadian mining company Crystallex in September over a $1.4bn arbitration award.

The ConocoPhillips and Crystallex cases stem from the government's expropriation of their Venezuelan assets in the late 2000s.

Bondholders are monitoring the cases but have so far avoided legal action to collect on delinquent Venezuelan debt.

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