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PDVSA positioning tanker Icarus
for oil transfer from incline FSO Nabarima

The Icarus will unload the FSO Nabarima moored in the shallow gulf separating Trinidad and Tobago from Venezuela.

By Patricia Garip and Canute James /Argus

Petroleumworld 10 20 2020

Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA (PdV) is positioning a US-sanctioned crude tanker to participate in the unloading of a stricken offshore storage vessel threatening to spill oil into the Gulf of Paria.

The Nabarima floating storage and offloading (FSO) vessel, laden with around 1.3mn bl of 23°API Corocoro crude, is moored in the shallow gulf separating Trinidad and Tobago from Venezuela. PDVSA (PdV) has previously denied any problems with the vessel, but now its Panama-flagged Aframax Icaro is en route to the Paria port of Guiria to participate in a crude transfer, according to ship-tracking data and a local contractor familiar with the planned transfer.

The Corocoro field belongs to PetroSucre, a PDVSA (PdV) -operated joint venture with Italy's Eni, which holds a 26pc stake. Eni has said it is awaiting US clearance to help transfer the oil out of the listing vessel without running afoul of US sanctions. In early September, the company said the unit had been stabilized and a water leak resolved.

In a new statement today, Eni was careful to highlight the US and Venezuelan authorization. "Eni is ready to perform the activities to ensure the safe offloading of the Nabarima FSO offshore Venezuela, using state-of-the-art solutions. The company will be able to proceed only after approval of its plan by PDVSA (majority shareholder and operator in Petrosucre) and upon formal assurance by the competent US authorities that the mentioned activities bring no sanctions risk either for Eni and its contractors."

The Icaro is one of several tankers subject to US sanctions on Venezuela.

The Gulf of Paria separates Trinidad from Venezuela by 16km (9.9mi) at their closest point. Trinidadian environmental groups have accused Port of Spain of foot-dragging, exposing the area to a potential environmental catastrophe. Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) said it approached the Nabarima on 16 October and its drone photographs "showed the vessel tilting at 25 to 30 degrees and increasing. Its anchor chains are taut, under extreme pressure."

Trinidad has been unable to examine the extent of the damage on the FSO until it received permission from Caracas to cross the maritime border, Trinidad's foreign ministry said. Caracas agreed to allow an inspection at the end of September, but changed this to 20 October, the ministry has said. A team of Trinidad experts is now preparing to inspect the vessel tomorrow.

The sanctions against Venezuela do not prevent the inspection, as they do not target "matters of safety, environmental, or humanitarian concerns," the US embassy in Trinidad said late last week. "We strongly support immediate actions to bring the Nabarima up to international safety standards and avoid possible environmental harm, which could negatively impact not only the Venezuelan people but also those in nearby countries. PDVSA has a responsibility to take action to avoid an environmental disaster in Venezuelan waters."

The US closed its embassy in Caracas in March 2019 after it recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president two months earlier. Nicolas Maduro remains in power in Caracas in spite of the sanctions. The US embassy staff currently works out of Bogota in neighboring Colombia as the Venezuela Affairs Unit.



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