A drone photo taken by the FFOS shows the Nabarima tilted to one side in the Gulf of Paria.

The Venezuelan Government hasn’t yet approved T&T’s request for a follow-up visit to the oil tanker Nabarima which experts had recommended be done by last Friday. This was confirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister Amery Browne.

Concerns had been expressed about a certain amount of listing and leaks on the floating storage vessel in July-August. The vessel held 1.3 million barrels of oil, sparking concerns about a potential environmental disaster.

After Government requested an inspection, the Nabarima. which is operated by Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA, was inspected by local experts on October 20. PDVSA had started removing some oil from the vessel just prior to the T&T team’s visit. Italian firm ENI, which operates the vessel with PDVSA, had obtained approval from the United States—which has sanctions on PDVSA—to remove the oil.

The T&T team said it had found the vessel was upright, stable and at no risk of sinking but recommended that a follow-up visit be done a month later. Browne said Venezuela hasn’t so far approved the second visit Government had applied for immediately after the team’s first visit.

“We understand the process of removal of the cargo continues. No negative developments have come to our attention thus far during this process,” he said.

Last Friday, Energy Minister Franklin Khan told Parliament there was a contingency plan to deal with any oil spill that occurs near T&T.

It’s not known how much oil has so far been removed from the vessel, or whether more is being stored in it as the former supply is shifted elsewhere. ENI’s plan was to remove the oil and ship it overseas.

Last week, oilprice.com stated that PDVSA documents indicated there were 18 oil tankers set to ship exports out of Venezuela in the coming weeks.

So far nine have loaded six million barrels of oil. It is unknown whether oil from the Nabarima contributed to those exports.

Three weeks ago, Venezuela sent a team to Russia to cement ties for an anti-blockade law to prevent Venezuela from being affected by the US sanctions and to revive Russian interest in oil commitments with Venezuela. The team was headed by Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and PDVSA head Asdrubal Chavez who came to T&T for a controversial visit in March.

Venezuela, which goes to the polls next month, is awaiting an idea of how it will stand on the US front after the electoral loss of the Trump administration which had placed the sanctions against it. Last week President-elect Joe Biden appointed James Story as the US’s first ambassdor to Venezuela in ten years. He will be based in Colombia.

Chevron, the last US oil giant in Venezuela, is looking to Biden’s administration to maintain a foothold there.