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The majority of the oil tankers owned by Venezuela are in such decrepit condition that they lack certification by flag nations and are at risk of collisions, spills, fires, and sinking, an internal report by Venezuela's state oil firm PDVSA, exclusively shared with Reuters, has shown.
PDVSA has a total of 22 oil tankers. More than half of them are unfit to ship crude and should be either sent for repairs immediately or withdrawn from use, according to the report drafted by the maritime branch of PDVSA.
The report says that the PDVSA fleet, after years of neglect and postponed necessary maintenance, now has "low levels of reliability," and the tankers are not safe to operate.
"The ships currently lack seaworthiness classification and certifications by flag nations," according to the report shared with Reuters.
The audits and reports on the state of Venezuela's petroleum industry continue after Nicolas Maduro ordered them at the end of last year in a probe into corruption and into billions of missing payments from oil exports.
The report on the tanker fleet from PDVSA's unit PDV Marina recommends that five tankers be removed from service, seven be sent for major repairs, and communications equipment, transponders, and fire extinguishers be installed on others.
With its own tankers in shambles, PDVSA has to lease tankers – at higher prices – from contractors willing to work with the Venezuelan state oil firm and handle its oil, which is under U.S. sanctions.
Last year, PDVSA leased 41 tankers, according to the report seen by Reuters.
Earlier this year, Venezuela was said to be preparing to contract a shipyard in its ally Iran to build two Aframax tankers. The tankers are set to cost $33.77 million each, Reuters reported in February, citing a PDVSA document.
Venezuela, Iran, and now Russia have been using a growing 'dark' or 'shadow' fleet of oil tankers to evade the sanctions on their oil exports.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com