Petrobras unit to add to oil tanker fleet

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 12 -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) shipping subsidiary Transpetro, following a favorable court order last month, has signed contracts valued at $866 million for the construction of nine oil tankers.

Petrobras said the Rio Naval consortium will build five Aframax tankers for $517 million and four Panamax tankers for $349 million. The ships, part of a $2.48 billion program to buy 26 oil vessels, will join Transpetro's fleet in 2009-11.

The signing was enabled by a Mar. 23 ruling of Brazil's Tribunal de Contas da Uni'o (TCU), which lifted an earlier suspension of contracts for 16 tankers.

The court reversed its earlier decision after consideration of a detailed submission presented to Brazil's internal auditor on Mar. 9, as well as a presentation by Transpetro Pres. Sergio Machado on Mar. 12.

Aroldo Cedraz, the minister responsible for the TCU, had blocked the contracts at the end of February, claiming that was a clear possibility of damage to the company due to the absence of detail of the indirect costs and inadequate criteria to fight and forecast any readjustment in prices.

Petrobras wants to increase the number of its oil vessels to 42 under a plan financed by Brazil's National Development Bank. Under the plan, BNDES aims to reduce Petrobras's costs for chartering foreign ships and revitalize Brazil's shipbuilding industry.

The Rio Naval consortium comprises Brazilian shipbuilders MPE, IESA, and Sermetal, in partnership with South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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