The slick of crude oil on Brazilian beaches has been identified as Venezuelan in origin and was first spotted by satellites hundreds of miles offshore. Authorities believe it occurred while transferring Venezuelan crude oil at sea and are treating the pollution as a criminal act
The slick of crude oil that washed up on hundreds of Brazilian beaches was first spotted by satellite in July 2019 and is one of the largest of a series of oil slicks that have arrived on Brazilian beaches since August 2019. The tides and drifts of the currents suggest the source of the oil slicks is further north and from Venezuelan waters.
The Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras has now identified the crude oil as from one of three Venezuelan oil fields. It is unlikely that a crude oil tanker would deliberately dump valuable cargo and fingers are being pointed at the increase in STS operations off the coast of Venezuela, and the possibility that one or more STS operations have gone wrong, resulting in the accidental spillage. The increase in STS operations is believed to be due to tanker owners and operators not wishing to be identified as loading Venezuelan crude oil in defiance of current US sanctions or ahead of further sanctions the US may impose on Venezuela.
The USA has introduced the possibility of secondary sanctions on any company that assists or supports the administration of Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro, effectively threatening foreign energy companies that do business with Venezuela.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has called the spill a criminal act and the country’s vice president Hamilton Mourão has dispatched 5,000 troops to the northeast of Brazil to give more “more visibility” to the government’s response. So far, some 4,000 tonnes of crude oil have been recovered from the beaches, but the Brazilian authorities believe there may be more on the way. The latest reports are that the slick has reached the Abrolhos national marine park, a protected area which includes the breeding grounds of humpback whales.
Brazil has also publicly named a Suezmax tanker it believes is involved in the spill. The operators of the Suezmax tanker have responded that the tanker has not been involved in any STS operations. Tanker tracking services companies like Paris-based Kpler report that it has spotted tankers ’going dark’ by switching off AIS transponders as they near the coast.
Tankers going dark to avoid compliance will be one of the issues discussed at the Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference, Exhibition and Awards to be held later this month in London. Book your place now to ensure your networking opportunities.