Fire at Cuban oil terminal is extinguished, but road to recovery will be long

The fire at the Matanzas fuel oil terminal in Cuba is out put out of action four of the site’s eight large storage tanks, impeding marine terminal operations and forcing tankers to divert to smaller ports.

The fire, which broke on August 5th when lightning struck the facility, igniting one tank, and then spread to other tanks over the next three days. There were 130 people injured in the incident, and at least six had been confirmed dead by August 12th.

Cuba is now experiencing a 50% shortage of electrical power generating capacity, leading to persistent, daily rolling blackouts.

While breakdowns at Cuba’s aging thermal power plants are the primary cause of the blackouts, the loss of half of the storage at Matanzas, which is Cuba’s biggest petroleum import terminal and the only one capable of handling tankers over 100,000 dwt, has added supply-chain disruption to the problem.

Some tankers diverted away from Matanzas to call at smaller ports such as Antilla and Santiago de Cuba However, larger tankers might require ship-to-ship transfers and lightering at smaller ports.