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Venezuela’s struggling oil company PDVSA declared a maritime emergency after a German company operating a portion of its tanker fleet said it planned to return ten vessels because of unpaid fees, Reuters reports, citing a PDVSA document and anonymous sources.
The news is the latest in a string of bad tidings for PDVSA, which has found itself juggling falling crude oil production due to mismanagement and U.S. sanctions, and an outflow of qualified personnel, including in the tanker department.
According to Reuters, the company needs as many as 160 people, including tanker captains, machinists, and operators, to bring back the ships that Germany Bernhard Schulte Ship Management (BSM) is returning because of unpaid fees. However, PDVSA does not have these crews.
The pile of unpaid PDVSA bills is getting higher: last month, the German company said it would abandon two of the Venezuelan company’s vessels in Portugal because of unpaid bills to a number of third-party companies.
Another tanker operated by BSM on behalf of PDVSA was seized by a group of shipping firms in Curacao, again because they were owed money by the Venezuelan company and were not getting any.
In total, Reuters reports, there are more than a dozen tankers loaded with Venezuelan crude around the world that are being held in arrest because of unpaid bills.
The struggle for PDVSA has been tough, but the latest round of U.S. sanctions made it even tougher as they specifically targeted the state oil company, effectively cutting its access to U.S. refiners, with Washington urging other buyers of Venezuelan oil to steer clear of it.
The pressure is aimed at removing President Nicolas Maduro from office and replacing him with opposition leader Juan Guaido who declared himself interim president and called for new elections in January. For now, however, the Maduro government is holding on to power as several million Venezuelans have left the country amid hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.