By Francisco Chirinos with additional reporting by Carlos Camacho.
On Monday, May 25, the workers of the El Palito refinery in the state of Carabobo began the process of unloading the Iranian tanker Fortune, which arrived loaded with gasoline on Sunday, May 24, at the dock of the refinery complex.
A worker who was present during the tanker’s arrival informed El Pitazo that the ship’s entry into port was normal. “Until 2:00 a.m. the docking maneuvers were carried out and the exploration of the Fortune’s connections began to evaluate the lines for unloading,” said the employee who requested not to be identified.
However, this process of unloading could not begin immediately because the Iranian hose connections did not match with the intakes at the El Palito refinery. “They are of another size, different from ours, they cannot be screwed on,” said another worker who also remained anonymous.
At some point, PDVSA workers realized that connectors existed in the country, not in Carabobo, where El Palito is located, but in a plant in Anzoategui. Until the connectors arrive, the unloading of gasoline cannot begin.
Special connectors are being sought in the Oriente division of state oil firm PDVSA, in Anzoategui state, to bridge a difference between the hoses and the tanks that were only detected Monday, one day after the Iranian ship arrived.
Tareck El Aissami in El Palito
The vice president for the economic area, Tareck El Aissami, arrived at the El Palito refinery. He highlighted as “a triumph of peace” the arrival of the tanker Fortune with a cargo that is part of the 1.5 million barrels of gasoline coming from Iran.
“We have already begun operations, and now the work of unloading the tanker Fortune is in progress,” said Minister El Aissami off-camera, once he finished his speech on state T.V. station Venezolana de Televisión.
The minister also indicated that in the Fortune, in addition to gasoline, there are additives necessary for the operation of the refinery, a version confirmed by a municipal official, who asked not to be identified but in the process admitted that the El Palito refinery could not at present produce 91 or 95 octane gasoline.
“One of the Iranian ships brings catalysts for the refineries to make quality gasoline, not like the current one which is very low octane, without the required quality”, the official said.
As to whether the Iranian gasoline will be in service stations freely or under the current rationing scheme imposed by the government, the same official told El Pitazo that rationing will be maintained: “There will be a little more (gasoline) than now, but remember that we cannot loosen the quarantine because of COVID-19, and people with gasoline are on the streets, so distribution will be kept moderate”.