PUNTO FIJO (Reuters) – Activity at Venezuela’s main oil port of Jose, operated by state-run company PDVSA, was halted following a massive power blackout on Monday, according to two oil industry workers and a union leader close to the facility.
The most recent oil shipment for export, on very large crude carrier Dragon chartered by Russia’s Rosneft, left the Jose terminal on March 24, according to Refinitiv Eikon vessel-tracking data and PDVSA’s trade documents.
“There is no electricity, everything is paralyzed,” oil workers’ union leader Jose Bodas told Reuters on Tuesday.
The blackout, Venezuela’s second major power outage in a month, left streets mostly empty in the capital Caracas as school and work were canceled.
President Nicolas Maduro’s government again blamed the outage on an “attack,” which comes amid a power struggle with the opposition and tensions with the United States.
Local experts and electrical engineers told Reuters both the current outage and a prolonged blackout that began March 7 were due to years of underinvestment and lack of maintenance.
The earlier blackout also halted oil exports at Jose, the lifeblood of the OPEC nation’s economy, eroding total export amounts and causing delays in loading and discharging oil.
Another PDVSA worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the port had been evacuated around 2 p.m. local time on Monday.
A second worker said an effort to restart operations around 11 p.m. on Monday was unsuccessful, and that only emergency personnel were working.
Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil ministry immediately responded to requests for comment.
The status of the country’s four crude upgraders, which convert extra-heavy crude from the Orinoco oil belt into exportable grades, and of upstream extraction operations, was not immediately clear.
Reporting by Mircely Guanipa and Marianna Parraga,; Writing by Marianna Parraga and Luc Cohen; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Bernadette Baum