PDVSA struggling to operate relinquished oil tankers
Petroleumworld 03 07 2019
Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA (PdV) may need to declare force majeure on some imports and exports after it was informed by German shipping operator Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) that it would return 10 tankers because of overdue bills, a PdV marketing official tells Argus .
PdV declared a maritime emergency after BSM said it was returning the tankers that it had been operating on PdV's behalf. The company is now struggling to find trained crews to operate them, the official and two PdV colleagues in the marketing and tanker divisions said.
BSM could not be reached for comment at its offices in Venezuela, Mexico and Germany.
Placing fresh crews abroad the relinquished tankers could be problematic because PdV Marina, the company's freight division, has few remaining trained maritime personnel.
"Those tankers won't be going anywhere until PdV Marina contracts a new tanker management company because we don't have the trained personnel in-house," a PdV Marina official said, adding that other companies will demand up-front cash payment.
According to a PdV internal document from February 2019 seen by Argus, up to 60pc of the trained maritime officers and crews employed by PdV Marina have quit their jobs since end-2017, citing economic and work-related security issues.
PdV Marina's operations have been crippled by "an alarming deficit of trained marine officers and tanker crews," the document states.
PdV Marina has partially compensated for the labor flight by compelling its remaining personnel to work longer hours with fewer days of rest, mainly by abandoning union contract provisions guaranteeing crew and officers three months of rest for every three months spent at sea, the internal document adds.
But the longer hours have accelerated the wave of departures by experienced seamen, a PdV Marina official said. The resentment among PdV Marina's remaining personnel is aggravated by "terrible living conditions" aboard PdV's tankers.
"The tankers are maintained just enough to comply with international shipping and port standards, but at the expense of living conditions aboard the ships," the official said.
There has been no official comment from PdV or the oil ministry on BSM's decision.
The scramble for an alternative tanker operator is the latest crisis to hit PdV, which is the target of US oil sanctions since 28 January. Earlier today, Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro issued an order to expel the German ambassador for his support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, whom Germany and more than 50 other countries recognize as Venezuela´s interim president. It is not clear if the move is related to the dispute with BSM
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