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Thursday 23 May 2019
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St Vincent ‘loses’ from Petrotrin shutdown

ST Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has not yet participated in TT’s new import and supposed re-export of gasoline to Caricom nations, even as St Vincent also suffers in importing oil from Venezuela now under US embargo, said their Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves. He spoke to reporters yesterday at the 18th Special Meeting of Caricom heads on the CSME at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s. He is the son of SVG Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

In closing the Petrotrin refinery last Friday, the Government had proposed to import a supply of refined oil from abroad, some of which it would then re-export to Caricom countries many of which had hitherto been supplied by refined product from Petrotrin. Gonsalves said SVG has not yet benefited from such re-exports and said he had not been fully appraised of details. He added that a US embargo against the Maduro regime has made oil imports of Venezuelan oil very difficult, both in hiring ships to carry the oil and by arranging payment in suitable currency.

Gonsalves said SVG used to get most of its refined oil from Petrotrin, with some diesel from Venezuela under the Petrocaribe treaty.

SVG and other Caricom nations are now seeking oil from outside the region.

“On one hand you can get a cheaper price by going outside the region but on the other hand Petrotrin had a competitive advantage by being able to deliver relatively small amounts of fuel. “We don’t need an oil tanker. We don’t have the means to store that much fuel.” That all meant that while foreign fuel may be priced cheaper, it will cost more to transport to small countries in the Caribbean, Gonsalves said.

On Petrotrin’s closure, he said, “It has disrupted the supply somewhat. We have sourced it (oil) from other sources, but it has been a disruption.”

Newsday asked about the TT government’s plan to import and then partially re-export refined fuels to Caricom.

He said, “That’s the plan as I understand it, but what we’re doing at the Caricom level is seeking the ability to cut out the middle man, if we can find the fuel ourselves, at a more affordable price.

“Petrotrin has yet to come back to us fully to explain how it will work - if they source it, refine it and re-export it, and what that would mean in terms of a time-line, supply and cost. So we don’t have enough data for me to comment on that.” Gonsalves said US sanctions on Venezuela are having an impact also on places like SVG. “The sanctions make it very hard for money to move from the Caribbean to Venezuela, or to move money from Venezuela.

“I mentioned the issue of Petrotrin supplying small amounts to the eastern Caribbean.”

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