The crude carrier NS Columbus, chartered by Venezuelan state-owned oil company PVDSA and under full load, was arrested in Dutch Caribbean island St. Maarten after request from the Russian shipowner Sovcomflot due to debt of 30 million USD. The Venezuelan company sent the tanker to the Caribbean countries in October 2016, expecting to recover from the sale of oil on board about 20 million USD. However, the owner of the tanker, Sovcomflot, secured her detention, demanding that the PDVSA pay off debts for the use of its vessels. The Russian state-owned shipping conglomerate Sovcomflot, held the oil in hopes of collecting partial payment on PDVSA’s debt for unpaid shipping fees.
According to the decision of the St. Maarten island, the oil was unloaded at the terminal on the island of St. Eustatius. The British Admiralty Court must decide whether Sovcomflot will receive Venezuelan oil as payment of its debt.
PDVSA owes millions of dollars also to the Caribbean oil terminals, including located on the island of St. Eustatius, which belongs to the American NuStar Energy.
The rapid fall in oil prices, which began in 2014, hit the Venezuelan economy hard. However, the Russian side did everything to help. Thus, according to the Venezuelan government and sources in the banking community, in 2016, Rosneft provided the PDVSA with a loan, and last month negotiated to help the Venezuelan company pay the bonds. However, the difficulties in relations between Venezuela and Sovcomflot have been going on for several months. The Russian company provides about 15% of the ships that PDVSA chartered and delivers oil to its customers, as its own fleet gradually becomes obsolete. However, in 2016, the debt of the PDVSA to the Russian company reached 30 million USD and the leadership of Sovcomflot personally filed a complaint to the head of the PDVSA.