Chavez seizes control of Venezuela's oil ports

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Mar. 17 -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, using the need for drug interdiction as his reason, has ordered his country's navy to seize seaports in Venezuelan states having major petroleum-exporting installations.

Until the takeover, La Guaira, the port closest to Caracas, was the only major port managed by the central government. Already, critics have expressed concerns over the government's ability to maintain operations at them.

"It is a matter of national security," Chavez said in announcing his takeover of the ports of Maracaibo in oil-rich Zulia state and Puerto Cabello in Carabobo state. He also referred to a plan to take control of the seaport in the state of Nueva Esparta.

The decision appears to fulfill long-standing political plans by Chavez as the three areas—Zulia, Carabobo, and Nueva Esparta—are among several that voted against him in last November's national elections.

At the time, Chavez led a personal campaign of intimidation, threatening to jail the outgoing governor of Zulia, who was running for mayor of that state's capital, and warning the voters in Carabobo that he would send in tanks if the opposition prevailed there.

The Chavez regime won 17 of the 22 governorships at stake, but the opposition won in four of the five most important races, including Zulia, Carabobo, the Miranda region around the capital city, and Caracas itself.

The victories, which also included Nueva Esparta and Tachira, adjacent to the border with Colombia, gave the opposition an institutional power base that Chavez felt he had to curb.

A sign of that emerged in February when a strike by 3,000 oil workers in the state of Zulia saw closure of four docks in the Lake Maracaibo area. The strike erupted when a group of companies in the area refused to pay the workers' salaries.

In a statement, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) accused the group of companies contracted to provide transportation services in the area of failing to fulfill their obligations and stated that docks on the eastern coast of the lake were operating normally again after PDVSA agreed to pay the workers.

Venezuelan drugs
Chavez said the takeover of the seaports was needed to bolster security after reports of cocaine trafficking on ships docking in Venezuelan ports.

The Honduran navy and US Coast Guard last week intercepted a boat sailing from Venezuela with more than three tons of cocaine on board, authorities said.

But the traffic in drugs from Venezuela is hardly new.

In 1986, when US agents in Florida found 6,600 pounds of cocaine hidden in cargo containers, the largest ever discovery up to that time, they learned that the drug had been loaded onto a Venezuelan ship at a Venezuelan port.

The decision by Chavez, who has long been concerned by alleged US plots to invade his country, follows a recent announcement by Washington to closely monitor ships entering US ports after earlier calls at Venezuela.

"The Coast Guard announces that it will impose conditions of entry on vessels arriving from the country of Venezuela," the Department of Homeland Security said on Jan. 16, adding that "ports in Venezuela are not maintaining effective antiterrorism measures" (OGJ, Jan. 26, 2009, p. 28).

The US has long claimed that Chavez provides support for the terrorist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).

Two days before issuing its directive concerning Venezuelan ships, the US government reiterated long-standing claims linking FARC with drug trafficking.

"The FARC is one of the world's largest suppliers of cocaine and continues to be Colombia's most notorious and vicious narco-terrorist organization," said Adam Szubin, director of the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The US State Department branded FARC as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, while former President George W. Bush in 2003 labeled it a major foreign narcotics trafficker.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

Related Articles

PACE survey finds 69% support for crude exports to trading partners

02/11/2015 More than two thirds of registered voters responding in a nationwide telephone survey commissioned by Producers for American Crude Exports (PACE) s...

OGJ Newsletter

01/26/2015

International news for oil and gas professionals

OGJ Newsletter

01/19/2015

International news for oil and gas professionals

API forms midstream department to address transportation system issues

01/13/2015 The American Petroleum Institute has formed a midstream department to address issues related to energy systems and the transportation of crude oil ...

Second ExxonMobil crude tanker nears service

01/12/2015 The second of two new US-flagged crude oil tankers belonging to SeaRiver Maritime Inc., the marine affiliate of ExxonMobil Corp., has been built an...

Security takes center stage

12/15/2014

Thwarting terrorists, repelling pirates, and routing organized crime: sounds like themes of familiar, big-budget Hollywood movies.

Linn exits Anadarko basin in deal worth $1.95 billion

12/12/2014 Linn Energy LLC has agreed to sell all of its oil and gas properties and related midstream assets in the western Anadarko basin for $1.95 billion t...

Barton introduces bill to remove US crude export limits

12/11/2014

US Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) introduced legislation that would remove US crude oil export limits that have been in place for nearly 40 years.

Study improves subsea pipeline preheating

12/01/2014 A higher flow rate at lower temperatures can more effectively preheat subsea crude oil pipelines than currently used techniques. This article found...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

When Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST


Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected