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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

No solution to the general strike in Venezuela

Further to our article dated 10 January, the strike at PDVSA that started on 2 December seems to continue unabated. Although pilots on Lake Maracaibo have resumed work, the general strike, which is now in its eighth week, is continuing and will have serious long-term implications for oil production and export from Venezuela. Opposition leaders and government officials disagree over production figures. President Hugo Chavez claims that production levels have reached 1.2m bpd, while the opposition reports it at around 650,000 bpd, and exports are estimated at around 500,000 bpd compared to 3.1m bpd before the strike started.

The strike has had serious consequences for the Venezuelan economy, and the bolivar has lost 25% of its value so far this year. This has prompted the government to consider plans to impose foreign exchange controls to protect the currency and depleting foreign reserves. The strike has also led to increasing shortages of gasoline and gas across the country. Analysts and local sources believe that it will take months to resume normal production and export levels due to damaged oil fields and lost market shares. In recent initiatives to resolve the situation, former US president Jimmy Carter has also attended negotiations between the two parties, chaired by the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States.

Given the circumstances, INTERTANKO’s Latin America Panel is planning an early meeting to discuss the situation together with other topics that will impact tanker trades in the region. INTERTANKO has also raised these matters with other international associations including BIMCO, ICS and INTERCARGO.

In addition to the pilots in the Puerto La Cruz/Jose Area, all regular channel and mooring pilots on Lake Maracaibo have returned to work. As of 21 January, only one tanker remained alongside at Puerto La Cruz and Punta Cardon respectively. 20 tankers were anchored at various anchorages including 10 Venezuelan tankers. Contingency ship crews from Iraq, Iran and India have reportedly arrived in Venezuela, possibly intended to relieve the Venezuelan crews on PDVSA-tankers.

Anders Baardvik
Ports & Terminals:Steinar Digre