(Reuters) - Crude exports by Venezuela’s PDVSA have slowed after a tanker collision at its main port last month disrupted operations, adding to a backlog of vessels waiting to load, according to shipping sources and Reuters data.
Oil is the financial lifeline for the embattled socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro, but his cash-strapped administration has failed to invest enough in the industry to prevent its decline. Venezuela has sought to increase exports after asset seizures and declining output earlier this year raised the prospect of temporary suspension of contracts.
PDVSA has not said how long it will take to repair damage from the collision and resume normal loading and discharging operations. The company did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Last week, PDVSA offered loadings at an alternative port to crude customers whose shipments were affected by the collision, but only a few have accepted so far, the sources said. That alternative, the Puerto la Cruz terminal, is limited to loading 500,000 barrels of crude per tanker, far less than the 2 million barrels PDVSA’s main port of Jose can handle.
Large tankers including three Suezmaxes and seven Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) are lined up off Jose waiting to load at the available docks and monobuoys systems.
The vessel backlog around PDVSA’s ports has been increasing since late August, following the collision. As of Sept. 6, more than 20 tankers were waiting to load 26 million barrels of Venezuelan crude, according to Reuters Trade Flows and vessel tracking data.
PDVSA’s crude exports rose in July to 1.39 million barrels per day (bpd), the most since November, but last month they slipped almost 8 percent to 1.29 million bpd on Jose port’s partial operations, falling oil output and Caribbean terminal seizure attempts by creditors including U.S. producer ConocoPhillips, according to the Reuters data.
One of PDVSA’s main customers, Russia’s state-run Rosneft, loaded a 925,000-barrel cargo of diluted crude oil (DCO) during the weekend at one of Jose’s monobuoys after being diverted from the South dock, still closed because of the collision.
Rosneft-chartered Nordic Moon set sail to Malta on Sunday after waiting to load in Venezuela since early August. But the Russian company still has other four vessels waiting to load up to 6 million barrels of heavy crude at Jose, according to the data.
Jose’s South dock, which suffered damage from the collision last month, is mainly used for shipping Orinoco Belt crude and discharging imported naphtha used to dilute the country’s extra heavy oil and make it exportable.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Steve Orlofsky