Trinidad says Venezuelan vessel is 'upright' but crude transfer poses risks

PORT OF SPAIN, Oct 22 (Reuters) - A Venezuelan floating oil facility that had been listing in recent weeks is upright and shows no sign of sinking, but plans to transfer crude off the vessel posed the risk of a spill, the energy minister of neighboring Trinidad and Tobago said.

In an interview with local television Wednesday evening after officials from the twin island nation inspected the vessel, energy minister Franklyn Khan said the Nabarima facility was "upright and stable with no immediate tilt" and described maintenance the ship was undergoing as "satisfactory."

The Nabarima is part of the Petrosucre joint venture between Venezuela's state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela and Italy's Eni SpA (E). It has been idle since the United States sanctioned PDVSA in early 2019 as part of Washington's effort to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

The facility is laden with 1.3 million barrels of Corocoro crude, and images in recent months of the vessel leaning to its side have alarmed environmentalists.

PDVSA, which did not reply to a request for comment, plans to offload some of the crude to its Icaro Aframax tanker, which is scheduled to deliver 550,000 barrels of Corocoro to western Venezuela's Amuay port, according to a company document seen by Reuters.

It plans to do this by transferring some 10,000 barrels of crude per day from the Nabarima to the Inmaculada barge, which would then bring the crude to the Icaro, a person familiar with the matter said, meaning the process would take weeks.

"The current method that they are offloading the ship is a tedious transfer process and this poses a greater risk of an environmental incident," Khan told Trinidad's CCN TV 6.

Brazil's navy has said it is monitoring the situation, after crude suspected to have spilled from an oil vessel washed up on the country's beaches last year.

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