(Reuters) – A Curacao refinery has received a court order requiring shippers to discharge a cargo of Venezuelan oil seized by maritime companies due to debts owned by Venezuela’s state-run company PDVSA, Refineria di Korsou said in a statement on Monday.
Venezuela’s crude exports, which provide the bulk of its export revenue, have tumbled because of declining production, PDVSA mismanagement and U.S. sanctions aiming to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro on Sunday opened the country’s maritime borders after closing them amid efforts by Venezuelan congress chief and self-declared president Juan Guaido to bring in U.S. humanitarian aid shipments from outside the country.
The 335,000-barrel-per-day Curacao refinery halted operations last spring after U.S. oil producer ConocoPhillips brought legal action to collect on a $2 billion arbitration award. The refinery, which is owned by the island’s government and operated by PDVSA, began resuming processing last month and wants to discharge the oil so the tanker can return to Venezuela and pick up more crude for Curacao.
PDVSA restarted crude shipments to Isla in December ahead of Jan. 28 sanctions, but a cargo, on the tanker Icaro, was seized in Curacao’s waters at the end of that month by shipping firms Exotic Waves Marina SA based in Liberia and Ammon Shipping and Transport based in Jordan, according to local media reports.
“Our goal was to store the crude in onshore tanks so the Icaro could return to Venezuela to load crude bound for Curacao,” the refinery said in a statement on Monday. The oil will remain under embargo until the dispute with shipping companies is solved, it said.
Reuters did not have access to the court order issued in Curacao.
PDVSA did not respond to a request for comment. The parent company of Ammon Shipping did not immediately respond to an email seeking information. Exotic Waves Marina could not be reached for comment.
Several tankers with Venezuelan oil around the world have been retained by authorities or otherwise prevented from sailing because PDVSA has not paid bills for operation, hull cleaning, inspections and other marine services.
The crew of Venezuelan tankers Rio Arauca and Parnaso last week abandoned vessels that have remained anchored in Lisbon since 2017 over unpaid fees to managers Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM).
Curacao is selecting an operator to replace PDVSA when its contract expires late this year. Motiva Enterprises LLC, initially selected as preferred bidder, dropped out of the running in January. The status of two other firms involved in contract discussions has not been disclosed.
“The government of Curacao has requested the refinery to remain open so its jobs will be preserved,” the statement said.