Fresh information from the Aruban government is raising new questions about where the 150,000 barrels of fuel sold by Paria Fuel Trading to ES Euro Shipping ended up.
According to the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ embassy here in T&T, the tanker MT Aldan never entered Aruban waters with its fuel cargo.
“Regarding the chemical tanker MT Aldan, the harbour master informed the Aruban government that he never received a pre-arrival questionnaire from any local agent, requesting entering of the territorial waters of Aruba for anchoring and/or ship-to-ship operation,” the embassy said.
The tanker Aldan collected fuel in T&T on April 21 and was initially bound for St Eustatius but the ship then changed destination ports without informing Paria.
After the matter was raised in the public domain, Paria contacted ES Euro Shipping and it was confirmed the tanker did not go to St Eustatius but was in Aruba.
Although Paria has not responded to questions on this matter since last week, on Monday the company put out a full-page advertisement detailing the timeline of the sale.
According to that timeline, the ship left T&T on April 21 and after the matter was raised in the public domain locally by April 23, Paria then contacted ES Euro Shipping and was told the fuel’s destination was Aruba and was provided with a redacted sales contract with an Aruban buyer. Paria, in turn, amended its contract with the new destination, along with the appropriate clause preventing resale to a sanctioned country.
However, the Aruban government is now saying that is information is incorrect. Through the T&T embassy, it said all vessels anchoring in Aruban waters must contact a local agent three days before landing.
“Vessels expressing the need to anchor in the territorial waters of Aruba or enter a port or perform STS-operation, must as a rule appoint a local agent and all pre-arrival information must be sent 72 hours prior entering the territorial waters of Aruba,” the Embassy said, noting the Aldan did no such thing.
The Aruban government also said it does not know where the tanker went.
“The MT Aldan was not seen on Automatic Identification System within the territorial waters and/or the economic zone of Aruba,” it said.
The MT Aldan was docked in the Venezuelan port of Amuay on March 13. That was its last port of call before going to Pointe-a-Pierre to collect it fuel load from Paria on April 19. The ship remained docked at Pointe-a-Pierre until April 21 and left on April 22 but had been offline until yesterday, where the ship’s AIS tracker put it near the Aruban maritime border. The ship and its 150,000 barrels of fuel thus went missing for 29 days.
However, the ship’s maritime tracking details still lists its last port call as Pointe-a-Pierre on April 21 and without the AIS tracking information in between T&T and Aruba, it is almost impossible to tell where it was for the last four weeks.
Paria Fuel Trading chairman Newman George and general manager Mushtaq Mohammed have not responded to calls or texts about any of these issues.
Paria confirmed it saw a redacted bill of sale from a local Aruban buyer but did not say who the buyer was or the date of that redacted bill of sale.
Guardian Media yesterday asked Mohammed if the buyer breached the sale contract and had produced a redacted bill of sale that was false, what action could be taken against the buyer. He did not respond.
In its advertisement, Paria’s said it only amended the contract with ES Euro Shipping to include a sanction clause after it became public knowledge on April 23 that the ship did not sail to St Eustatius but went to Aruba.
However, one lawyer who worked in Petrotrin’s legal department and dealt with its sales contracts told Guardian Media yesterday that an email cannot be used to update an existing contract unless there was already a provision in the original contract for emails to be sufficient.
“And I cannot see that happening,” the lawyer said.
An agreement for sale conditions via email that is not attached and signed off on in an existing contract is not binding, the lawyer said.