CARACAS/PUNTO FIJO, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela’s main oil export terminal, Jose, has resumed operations and a shipment of crude for export left its docks for the first time since a blackout halted its main activities last week, according to two sources familiar with the matter and Refinitiv Eikon data.
The port halted exports, the lifeblood of the OPEC member’s economy, after a massive power outage that began last week. Electricity has been restored to many parts of Venezuela in recent days.
“The terminal has re-established operations,” said oil workers’ union leader Jose Bodas.
He added that upgrading facilities that convert heavy crude from Venezuela’s Orinoco oil belt into exportable grades were still recirculating product to keep the systems running, but not producing new product.
A blackout last Thursday left most of the country without power, leaving the upgraders operating at minimum levels and affecting the Puerto la Cruz refinery.
President Nicolas Maduro blamed the outage on “sabotage” by the United States, while critics blamed years of underinvestment, rampant corruption and a decade of incompetent management by state authorities.
Ship loading began on Tuesday, with a tanker for transporting oil between domestic ports, Refinitiv Eikon data showed. A second vessel, the Suezmax Fontana chartered by Petrochina and bound for China, finished loading on Wednesday, according to the data. No oil export tankers had left Venezuelan waters since March 7, according to the data.
Venezuela’s oil ministry and state-owned oil company PDVSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The blackout added to the Venezuelan oil industry’s woes after the United States, its largest customer, slapped sanctions on PDVSA in a bid to oust Maduro from power.
The United States and most countries in Europe and Latin America have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful president after the 35-year-old congress chief declared himself interim president in January, calling Maduro’s 2018 re-election a fraud.
Reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Caracas, Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo and Marianna Parraga in Houston; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Grant McCool