The tangled story of the oil cargo at the heart of the dispute began a year ago, when PDVSA sent 550,000 barrels of crude oil to St. Eustatius on tanker NS Columbus rented from Sovcomflot. The oil had been sold to Norway’s Statoil, which planned to retrieve it at Statia.
Before it could get there, Sovcomflot had a St. Maarten court freeze the delivery in hopes of collecting partial payment for shipping fees unpaid by PDVSA. Five months after crossing the Caribbean, the court ordered the tanker to discharge its cargo at Statia.
Trafigura’s attempts to obtain the oil first were delayed due to force majeure declared by NuStar due to Hurricane Irma, and later over the unpaid bills between PDVSA and NuStar.
“We are facing a delay in the payment for the use of such facilities and related services contracted there. PDVSA is doing its best to catch up with outstanding debts, but has not made any special arrangements to cover the storage costs of the relevant tank,” a PDVSA official wrote in an email in October.
The PDVSA official explained that “since June no payment has been made to NuStar,” but also said that a payment schedule was proposed to the U.S. firm in a meeting in September in Caracas, with a first installment of $2.3 million planned for October.
According to the schedule, 10 percent of the accumulated debt was to be paid from October through December, with a one-time additional payment due in January and the remainder paid off through 10-percent monthly installments.
PDVSA has not yet paid the October installment, according to a PDVSA source, prompting NuStar’s refusal to load.
In a memorandum to PDVSA’s finance chief, Simon Zerpa, the oil company’s trade and supply department warned further payment delay to NuStar could result in possible tanker embargoes, broken supply contracts with Caribbean customers and a shortage of fuels for Venezuela’s domestic market.
In the September meeting, PDVSA suggested it could terminate a related contract with NuStar for fuel oil tanks rental and sublease a portion of its Statia storage to an undisclosed firm as a way to reduce further debts.
NuStar countered that PDVSA could pay off the debt with oil, or by allowing it to become a partner in the state-run company’s terminal on the island of Bonaire along with a partial payment to show good faith.
It is unclear if any agreement on topics different than the payment schedule was reached.
Source : CNBC