Published On: Mon, Mar 19th, 2018

Detained PdVSA oil cargo released in Curaçao

BullenbaaiWILLEMSTAD - Venezuelan state-owned PdVSA reached a settlement that released a cargo of crude and bunkers that had been held in Curaçao since December 30.

The Panama-flagged Proteo tanker, a Lakemax vessel with 600,000-700,000 bl of capacity, is now free to leave the Curaçao, Roderik van Hees, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, told news media specialized in the oil industry Argus.

"We levied attachments and now we lifted the attachments, which means that PdVSA is free to do with the oil what they want," Van Hees said. "The attachments were lifted pursuant to a settlement agreement I reached with PdVSA on behalf of my clients."

Further details of the agreement, or the names of the parties that imposed the attachments, were not disclosed.

The tanker, which is carrying extra-heavy Boscan crude and remains for the moment in the Curaçao port of Bullen Bay, is one of numerous vessels that have been detained in the Dutch Caribbean over the past year because of PdV's overdue debts.

Under Dutch law, a court order for a pre-judgment attachment of assets is easier to obtain than in other legal jurisdictions such as the US. This is partly because the counterparty whose assets would be seized does not need to be present in the court when the preliminary order is issued.

The detentions, which numbered an estimated 15 last year, expose the legal vulnerability of PdVSA's Caribbean operations, which are vital to its export logistics.

In Curaçao, PdVSA operates the Isla refinery under a long-term lease that expires at the end of 2019. The government of Curaçao is seeking to bring in a third party to shore up the short-term refining operations, even as it seeks a new operator to take over the facility under a new long-term lease starting in 2020.

The Shell-built refinery, which has a nameplate capacity of up to 335,000 b/d but operates economically at 225,000-230,000 b/d, has been in start-stop mode for months, mirroring the problems that have hobbled PdVSA's refinery fleet in Venezuela.

Venezuela closed its borders with Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao in January, declaring that the islands were not doing enough to stop the smuggling of Venezuelan gold and other goods.

PdVSA operates the Bopec storage facility in Bonaire, and its US subsidiary Citgo stores crude in Aruba and has pledged to restart a refinery there.

Photo: Bullen Bay (archive)

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