ALBA Oil Ship Begins Operating in Venezuela

Mérida, May 13th 2009 ( - On Tuesday, the Cuba-Venezuela made petroleum ship named Sandino started operating. It will transport oil to Caribbean countries and member countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of our America (ALBA).

Sandino arrived at the port in Anzoategui state, Venezuela, on Tuesday. The ship was made by a mixed Cuban-Venezuelan company called ALBA Transport, which was created in January 2007 with the aim of increasing the economic and social integration of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Sandino will transport oil to countries which form part of the energy agreements of the regional trade bloc ALBA, which is an alternative to U.S-dominated free trade agreements. Sandino will also deliver to countries in the Petrocaribe bloc, through which Venezuela provides 18 Caribbean countries with crude oil and its derivatives at special prices and payment schedules.

Sandino is the second ship to arrive in Venezuela as part of such regional trade agreements, after the Petion arrived in February.

Sandino, like Petion, is able to transport up to 490,000 barrels of oil, according to Asdrubal Chavez, the vice president of refining and trade at Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

“The Sandino is of vital importance for the development of the peoples of the Latin American region, as it strengthens transport and energy sovereignty in the whole hemisphere,” he said.

Chavez said the new ship will help save about $0.50-1 per barrel of oil, or $30-50 million dollars per year in shipping costs.

Since the government passed a law on May 7th giving it control over a range of oil-related services, PDVSA now controls 90% of the crude oil activity in the area around oil-rich Maracaibo Lake in Zulia state, according to Energy and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramirez.

According to the Bolivarian News Agency (ABN) and a range of private media sources, companies which the government recently nationalised include the transnational gas plant operator Wilpro, and the British water injection company John Wood Group.