FSO Nabarima, (Floating Storage and Offloading unit), which contains 1.3 million barrels of crude oil, is sinking in the Gulf of Paria, Sucre State, offshore Venezuela. This is a time bomb that could add to the long list of incidents with high environmental impact occurred at PDVSA’s facilities due to a lack of maintenance, corruption, politicization, and overall poor management that have characterized the company during the 20 years of the chavista dictatorship.
Eudis Girot, head of the Unitary Federation Petroleum Workers of Venezuela (Futpve) drew attention to this situation. The union leader assured that the FSO Nabarima is in very bad state and that its equipment is completely deteriorated. Girot also added that the lower deck and equipment are three meters under water.
Other spokespersons from civil association Gente del Petróleo, formed by former oil workers, also joined these claims. They said this type of incidents are becoming increasingly common at the company.
Abandoned facilities with no security protocols
FSO Nabarima is one of the offshore facilities at the Corocoro field, located in the western Gulf of Paria, and is operated by mixed company Petrosucre, S.A. State-owned company PDVSA owns a 74% share of this company, with the remaining 26% owned by Italian company ENI. The Corocoro field is currently closed, with no production activities carried out at this site for nearly two years. Estimates indicate that the Nabarima is storing close to 1.3 million barrels of crude, nearly its maximum capacity. The cargo has been there for over a year after production operations seized at the site.
Through PDVSA, Petrosucre had a charter contract with Norwegian company Knutsen Group to shuffle and transport the sold crude. However, after the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) against PDVSA, the contract was terminated. The company cannot extract crude. It does not have the necessary equipment to do so, and also, due to the restrictions, lacks the access to the international service market.
The FSO Nabarima is a double-hull tanker, which provides a certain degree of security. Nonetheless, according to PDVSA workers, its main processing, control, and auxiliary equipment are inoperative due to lack of maintenance and poor management. Moreover, it is currently operated by only five people, when it is actually designed to be operated by about 80 people. All of this generates increasing risk of fire, explosion or even the collapse of the boat’s structure.
A matter of time
According to Girot, the tanker’s crew assure that the boat is sinking. Neither PDVSA or the Ministry of Energy and Oil and the Ministry of Environment have done anything to prevent this, they said. On Sunday, August 30, the workers reported that part of the engine room is three meters under water.
The syndicalist took to Twitter to publish photographs that show that the tanker is slightly tilted, with a noticeable decline of the waterline. He also included images of the boat’s interior, with visibly flooded parts and deteriorated installations that showed evident signs of rust. Girot warned that 1.3 million barrels “could spill destroying nature and affecting the Gulf of Paria, the Orinoco Delta, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.”
In his statements, Eudis Girot blamed not only PDVSA’s senior management but also Wills Rangel, president of the Single Oil Worker’s Federation of Venezuela. He accused them of diverting resources earmarked to maintaining oil installations, including the FSO Nabarima. He assured the boat “is destroyed. Only the mooring cables are keeping it afloat”. He also stated that there are already traces of oil in the beaches of the neighboring community of Güiria.
Girot said the FSO Nabarima is “in an emergency situation due to lack of proper and professional maintenance”. The ship’s superstructure and engine room are taking on water, and in some parts it has about 1.5 meters of water. Furthermore, the boat has slightly tilted to the left. According to the syndicalist, PDVSA put unqualified personnel in charge of the tanker, who were unable to maintain that type of machinery.
A string of accidents
Although the case of the Nabarina is a potential incident that has not yet occurred, PDVSA accumulates a long list of operational accidents, with high environmental, material, financial and human cost. The most recent was the spill detected on August 2, which has affected more than 4 kilometers of coastline at the Morrocoy National Park, in Falcón; which has affected the natural reserve’s marine fauna and flora.
A document signed by the Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (Acfiman) and the Academy of Engineering and Habitat (ANIH) indicates that the spill comes from the El Palito refinery, in the neighboring state of Carabobo.
Shortly after this spill was reported, specifically on August 14, access to that same refining center was blocked as a security measure, due to an alleged explosion. The alert was issued by users of social networks, after seeing the security deployment in the area. As has been its custom, Nicolás Maduro’s regime chose to maintain absolute secrecy on this issue.
The Academy of Science also speaks up
Acfiman and ANIH warned that these types of incidents “further compromise natural resources, the diversity of our ecosystems, health in nearby communities, and economic activities in the affected areas.”
In the document, the organizations denounce the continued violation of national and international legislation on oil and the environment. They said that these irregularities are growing in terms of frequency and extent of foreseeable and controllable accidents. “It is public and notorious that oil spills are no longer the exception in PDVSA’s operation and environmental performance,” they said.
The Venezuelan Ecological Society is monitoring the situation. The society has warned that if the FSO Nabarima sinks it could be the start of the worst marine disaster in the history of the country and affect the nearby coasts of Trinidad and Tobago.
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