EXCLUSIVE Venezuelan PDVSA seeks oil tankers in anticipation of US sanctions relief

An oil tanker is docked while oil is being pumped from it at the ship terminal of PDVSA’s Jose Antonio Anzoategui industrial complex in Anzoategui state April 15, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File photo

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CARACAS/HOUSTON, March 31 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s state energy company PDVSA is in talks to buy and lease several oil tankers amid a possible export expansion, according to three sources and a document seen by Reuters, a sign the country is hoping for. US sanctions on its oil sector will be eased.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered a global search for new oil supplies, especially heavy oil produced by Venezuela. A high-level meeting between US and Venezuelan officials in Caracas this month opened the door to talks about sanctions imposed on PDVSA in 2019, which were later tightened by former US President Donald Trump as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign to oust Venezuela. to the Venezuelan president. Nicholas Maduro.

Trump administration sanctions in 2020 led to a complete cut in export authorizations covering most foreign energy companies in joint production with PDVSA. The suspension left companies like Chevron Corp. (CLC.N)Eni SpA (ENI.MI) and Repsol S.A. (REP.MC) with billions of dollars in unpaid dividends and debts that had been paid off through shipments of Venezuelan oil. Read more

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Executives from PDVSA’s maritime arm, PDV Marina, and the company’s Commerce and Supply division recently met with several companies that offer tankers. All were willing to take Venezuelan crude or refined products as payment for the vessels, according to the document and sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“PDVSA’s tanker fleet is too short for any increase in oil production for domestic refining or exports,” one of the sources said.

PDVSA did not respond to a request for comment.

FLEET IN DAMAGE

PDVSA’s aging fleet, made up of some 30 of its own tankers, has been forced to remain mostly in Venezuelan waters after underinvestment and lack of repairs for more than a decade, according to Refinitiv Eikon data and sources.

The country’s crude and oil exports have plummeted under US sanctions, to about 650,000 barrels per day (bpd) last year, from more than 1.5 million bpd in 2018.

US sanctions that prevent PDVSA from renewing the insurance and classification of its ships, which certifies that they are seaworthy, have in recent years reduced the company’s ability to use the ships for exports, which has led it to rely heavily on a group of third-party tankers that often transport crude in Venezuelan ports, state company sources and documents have shown.

In one of the proposals seen by Reuters, a company whose name was redacted in the document offered five Aframax tankers, each capable of carrying up to 700,000 barrels of oil, under a lease-to-own contract.

It required PDVSA to pay between $22,500 and $35,000 per day for up to 12 months to lease each vessel under a time charter contract. Those ships would be progressively replaced by new ones after the first year with payment for the new tankers through four million barrels of Venezuelan fuel oil valued at $300 million, according to the proposal.

That company also proposed blurring PDVSA’s ownership of the new tankers through a chain of intermediaries, which would reduce the risk of detentions or seizures by the United States if sanctions remain in place.

In 2020, PDVSA offered to ship its own oil, pricing in crude supply deals to help customers struggling to contract vessels due to US sanctions, but the contracts were short-lived due to a lack of enough Venezuelan boats.

That year, the company also lost three of the four very large crude carriers it bought from China over payment disputes. Earlier this year, PDVSA had to send a crew to rescue the remaining one, which had been in danger for weeks in Asia.

Washington between 2019 and 2020 blacklisted owners and operators of vessels carrying Venezuelan oil, but has not applied similar maritime sanctions in the last year. Still, many shipping companies continue to avoid Venezuelan waters due to US measures, forcing deep discounts on oil prices from the South American country.

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Information from Mircely Guanipa in Caracas and Marianna Parraga in Houston; Edited by Gary McWilliams and Paul Simao

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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