Three tankers waiting to discharge some 1.65 million barrels of U.S. crude at the Caribbean island of Curacao will soon be joined by another 1.1 million barrels under way, as Venezuelan PDVSA’s port delays worsen due to growing imports, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The oil company last month awarded British BP, China Oil and PetroChina large tenders to buy some 8.7 million barrels of U.S. and Nigerian light oil for delivery in the second quarter, doubling its regular crude imports.
But equipment malfunctioning at PDVSA’s main oil port, Jose, has caused delays for loading and discharging tankers, curbing crude exports and forming a backlog of vessels waiting to deliver imports.
The Aframax Lillesand, chartered by BP and loaded on April 27 at Enterprise Products Partners’ terminal in Houston, is the most recent tanker with U.S. crude setting sail to Bullenbay terminal in Curacao, according to Thomson Reuters vessel data.
The Aframax Drepanos is also on its way to the island, with tankers NS Century, Paramount Hatteras and Angelica Schulte chartered by BP and China Oil having arrived in Curacao since mid-April. Wait times are over 10 days in some cases, the data say.
“It’s just a nightmare,” said a shipbroker who did not want to be identified. “If there is not a problem related to terminal equipment, PDVSA is facing a payment delay of accumulation of pending freight payments.”
While the backlog of vessels has eased in recent days around Jose, diverted tankers and more imports have created a similar problem around Curacao, where PDVSA blends crude for exports and operates a 335,000-barrel-per-day refinery.
As of April 27, 14 dirty tankers were anchored around Jose, less than 18 in early April. But tankers waiting in Curacao have increased to more than a dozen and some 80 vessels in total were waiting around all PDVSA’s ports in Venezuela and the Caribbean.
Traders and shippers consulted expect the backlog to continue next month if Jose’s problems are not solved as PDVSA will start receiving Nigeria’s Qua Iboe crude from BP. According to the tender’s terms, the British firm must deliver three 900,000-barrel cargoes from May through June.
PDVSA has not only increased crude imports, but it is also buying more products since its domestic refining network started having power and equipment problems at the beginning of the year. This week it offered to buy up to five 300,000-barrel cargoes of catalytic naphtha and high-sulfur diesel.