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Venezuela's Crude-Stained Oil Tankers Are Banned At Sea Due To Contamination

Venezuela's Crude-Stained Oil Tankers Are Banned At Sea Due To Contamination
The Caspian Galaxy is a tanker so filthy it can't set sail in international waters and workers in scuba suits scrub crude oil by hand from the hull of the ship in the scorching heat of the Caribbean Sea.
There are many vessels which load crude from Venezuela's state-run oil company, PDVSA at two major export terminals and are constantly contaminated. From leaks in the rusty pipelines under the surface, the water here has an oily sheen.
And since foreign ports, which won't admit crude-stained ships for fear of environmental damage to their harbors, port facilities or other vessels, the tankers have to be cleaned before traveling to foreign ports.
According to three executives of the state-run firm, eight employees of maritime firms that contract with PDVSA and Thomson Reuters vessel-tracking data, the laborious hand-cleaning operation is one of many causes of chronic delays for dozens of tankers that deliver Venezuela's principle export to customers worldwide. Secondly, service providers are owed money by cash-strapped PDVSA and this causes delayed repairs and impoundments.
PDVSA can't boost exports, which is its only option for raising more cash which is required to properly maintain ships, refineries and production operations - or to pay business partners on time and the tankers sidelined for cleaning provide a vivid example of the firm's downward spiral.
And as citizens struggle daily amid soaring inflation and shortages of food and medicine, the lagging exports crimp the flow of cash back to the country's crippled socialist economy. The problems of its state-run oil company pose a national crisis because Venezuela relies on oil for more than 90 percent of export revenues.
According to Thomson Reuters data, in the first quarter versus the same period in 2016, Venezuela's crude exports declined 8 percent to 1.69 million barrels per day (bpd).
the popularity of late President Hugo Chavez, the socialist firebrand was maintained as an elaborate system of government price controls and social subsidies were financed entirely by crude and fuel exports when oil prices were high.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has publicly acknowledged that lower oil prices have left the government with less money to finance them but he insists the government has maintained social programs.
An oil-stained tanker would normally be taken out of the water and cleaned with industrial equipment in a dry dock at oil export terminals around the world - where crude leaks like those in Venezuela are relatively rare.
But Venezuela lacks the cash or the time to send its soiled tankers there for proper cleaning and has just one small dry dock.
According to Thomson Reuters vessel-tracking data, at the end of March, eighteen of the 31 oil tankers PDVSA owns were out of commission.
According to the data, several needed cleaning, while others need repairs.
according to three captains and ship brokers involved in lease contracts with PDVSA and Thomson Reuters vessel tracking data, PDVSA leases more than 50 tankers - each at a cost of between $800,000 to $1 million per month to keep oil flowing. To complement its own fleet of tankers, that is more than double the number of vessels it typically leases.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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