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Curacao court calls for auction of seized Venezuelan crude

Caracas, Venezuela — A court in the Caribbean island nation of Curacao has initiated a public auction to sell 199,882 barrels of Santa Barbara crude and 3,420 barrels of Tia Juana Heavy crude that were seized last February by a group of shipping firms allegedly owed money by Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA, according to a public notice.

The auction will be held December 11 in Willmestad, Curacao, at the office of OX & Wolf Legal Partners, according to a notice published in the Curacao news media.

The court will require the winning bidder to pay cash immediately for the crude, which is currently being stored in two tanks at the Bullenbaai oil terminal in Curacao.

"After the sale, the buyer is at risk for storage expenses. The buyer should consult the Isla Refinery on Curacao to determine the costs of loading the crude," according to the public notice.

According to previous reports, a group of shippers embargoed the crude shipment in lieu of past due transportation charges owed them by PDVSA. The names of the carriers were not included in the notice.

"There was already a first sale attempt in April but the auction was not of interest, it was deserted," said a PDVSA official who spoke with S&P Global Platts on condition of anonymity.

"The crude does not belong to PDVSA or RdK (Korso refinery). That crude was seized by shipping companies," the official said.

PDVSA has maintained since 1985 a lease of the refining and storage facilities in Curacao, including the Bullenbay oil terminal. This contract officially expires in December.

PDVSA was not immediately available for comment.

The crude offloaded in Bullenbaai in February, was brought there by the tanker Icaro operated in the time by Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement.

By court order, the tanker was detained in Curacao from December 26, 2018, until it discharged the crude two months later, according to previous reports.

The US on Tuesday added four crude oil tankers, including the Icaro, and two products tankers linked to PDVSA, to its sanctions list.

The US Treasury Department put the following six vessels on its list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN):

  • Panama-flagged crude tanker Icaro
  • Venezuela-flagged crude tankers Paramaconi, Terepaima and Yare
  • Venezuela-flagged products tankers Luisa Caceres de Arismendi and Manuel Saenz.

The department also noted that Greece-flagged crude tanker Nedas, which was already listed on the SDN, had changed its name and flag to the Cuba-flagged tanker Esperanza. In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged that the vessels sanctioned Tuesday were being used by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to send oil to Cuba.

-- Newsdesk-Venezuela, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Derek Sands, newsdesk@spglobal.com