Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA has insisted that it had not halted business with maritime contractor Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), after the German firm notified it would remove crews operating 10 of 15 PDVSA vessels over unpaid fees, and that it would be returning the tankers.
PDVSA’s maritime arm PDV Marina declared an emergency on Tuesday March 5th as it did not have the available staff to cope with the vessels that BSM proposed to return to Venezuelan ports due to unpaid bills of at least $15m.
The vessels – Nereo, Proteo, Zeus, Hero, Eos, Teseo, Rio Caroni, Rio Apure, Rio Orinoco and Arita – had BSM crews onboard on Thursday, reported Reuters, citing an unnamed source from the company, adding that payment was being negotiated with PDVSA.
Three other vessels operated by BSM for PDVSA remain anchored in Portugal and Curacao until the resolution of legal disputes linked to fees that PDVSA owes to maritime agencies, port authorities and shipyards.
PDVSA will need 160 captains, machinists and operators to operate the 10 vessels, but PDVSA is only offering to pay staff in Bolivars.
“PDV Marina does not have staff enough for all the vessels. That is not new. PDVSA owes everybody money, even its own crew,” a tanker inspector in Venezuela told Reuters, while insisting on anonymity..
BSM operates a fleet of 15 PDVSA vessels, including eight Aframaxes that are mostly used for moving oil between Venezuela’s domestic ports and the Caribbean; four suezmaxes previously serving export destinations but recently also navigating Venezuelan waters; the asrama Arita covering routes to Asia; and two very large crude carriers jointly owned by PDVSA and PetroChina.
The German company’s crew last month abandoned two vessels anchored in Portugal – the Rio Arauca and the Parnaso – after keeping staff aboard for more than 20 months. The firm has said legal responsibility for the vessels rests with the arresting parties.