The former head of marketing and Petrotrin president Kenneth Allum believes that Paria Fuel Trading Company should blacklist ES Euro Shipping for its failure to be transparent in the fuel deal which is still under scrutiny with many unanswered questions.
“It’s the only recourse,” Allum told Guardian Media.
Paria entered into an agreement with ES Euro shipping a company owned by Wilmer Ruperti, a man with known close ties to the Maduro Regime on March 28, and shipping contract has been a source of contention coming as it did just a day after the visit to this country of the Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and a delegation that included top officials of the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA.
That contract by Paria’s own admission via a paid advertisement seemed to have changed destination without the consent of the company and questions were raised by Paria as to whether the shipment was being sent to Venezuela a sanctioned country.
Paria, in a paid advertisement last Monday said that only after the change in destination was in the public domain did they contact Euro Shipping and it was confirmed that the shipment was going to Aruba.
Euro Shipping, Paria said, produced a redacted sales contract with a local, Aruban buyer. A redacted contract is one in which sensitive information has been expunged or removed.
The Aruban government has since said that not only did it not have any deal with T&T, but it is the only body authorised to conduct any fuel sales and that the ship, MT Aldan, never entered Aruban waters or indicated to the Aruban harbour master that it intended to berth in Aruban docks.
Paria said that Euro Shipping informed them that the gas was sold to Aruba, but the Aruban government, through its local embassy, said that neither the gas nor the ship entered their maritime borders.
That tanker, MT Aldan, has been offline and impossible to locate since it left Pointe-a-Pierre on April 21 the last available data of the MT Aldan is April 22nd which puts the position of the MT Aldan at 179 nautical miles.
One vessel finder site has since listed it as “decommissioned or lost at sea” while another site just lists its last port of call of Pointe-a-Pierre 30 days ago.
But was there a sanctions clause in the contract between Paria and Euro Shipping?
The first sales agreement between T&T’s Paria Fuel Trading Company and ES Euro Shipping did not contain a sanctions clause forbidding Euro Shipping from selling fuel to Venezuela. Though the sale took place back in April, it is still unclear where the fuel went.
Two lawyers who worked with Petrotrin and who agreed to speak with Guardian Media on condition of anonymity explained that a sanctions clause is usually included in all international contracts and contained within the terms and conditions of spot-sales contracts.
It prevents the sale of fuel to any sanctioned country.
In the absence of a sanction clause, a buyer can purchase oil from T&T and ship it to a country that has been embargoed by the United States opening the local selling company to US sanctions as well for aiding a sanctioned country. The company, according to the lawyers, can also be blacklisted by other companies wanting to distance themselves from the possibility of sanctions.
Paria, in an advertisement one week ago, said it contacted Euro Shipping on April 24 and only then, after the matter was in the public domain, included a sanction clause in their contract.
By then the company, Euro Shipping said the destination was Aruba, but the Aruban government has since denied that.
The question now is where is the fuel and why wasn’t the normal sanction clause included in the first contract?
The lawyers who spoke with Guardian examined the limited information provided by Paria since this issue arose and said that sanction clauses are always included in all contracts, even in ones for spot sales like the sale agreement between Paria and Euro Shipping.
Paria’s general manager Mushtaq Mohammed and chairman Newman George have been gone silent since the company published the media advertisement last Monday.
According to that advertisement, which has been Paria’s first and only comment on the matter thus far, Paria was contacted on March 28. No word or clarification on how the company was contacted for this sale.
Paria chairman Newman George had confirmed to the Guardian in April that he was contacted by Euro Shipping on March 28.
“Matters like these, even spot sales usually don’t even include the GM (general manager), it’s the sales team and legal that really handles sales matters. So it is already unusual that the chairman and the general manager were involved,” one lawyer said.
“A spot sale is a run-of-the-mill transaction which Paria indicated its chairman and GM had full authority over. Why was the chairman involved?” the lawyer asked.
According to Paria’s advertisement on April 14, the company was “advised by one of the independent contractors retained to provide services to the vessel while in Trinidad, that the nomination to provide said service was requested by a company with Venezuelan ties.
The former Petrotrin lawyer said this was very strange.
“Despite the red flag, the transaction continued,” the lawyer said.
Not only did Paria continue with the deal, but despite that red flag did not attach any amendments to the contract at that time.
The Paria’ advertisement stated that on April 21, the vessel was loaded and left T&T. At that time Paria believed that the fuel was destined for St Eustatius.
Days later, Paria would be informed, through the public domain that the vessel was actually en route to Aruba.
“There is a clear breach of the contract at that time by Euro Shipping who failed to advise of the change in destination,” the lawyer said.
“Why was the decision taken by Paria to cure the breach as opposed to taking legal action against Euro Shipping for that breach given the red flag raised on April 14 and information on the public domain,” the lawyer asked
Another former Petrotrin lawyer said that clauses were introduced into all contracts years ago when the companies were united under Petrotrin. That has been corroborated by former heads of Petrotrin.
Allum whose expertise in the oil and energy sector spans decades told Guardian Media in an interview last Sunday, that sanctions were par for the course in Petrotrin contracts. He explained that they would only be left out if the seller (Paria) trusted that the company was going to its stated destination.
“Once you doing an international sales agreement, you would put in a sanctions clause, when I say international, I mean an out-of-Trinidad sale, you would put in a sanctions clause,” Allum said.
“You would do that but I don’t know what happened here, I am reading it just like you,” Allum said.
Allum explained that while it was not uncommon for a shipping company to change destinations after the sale, “it is incumbent on the buyer (Euro Shipping) to inform the seller (Paria),” he said.
In Paria’s own words, this did not happen.
Paria, in the advertisement last Monday said that only after the change in destination was in the public domain, then they contacted Euro Shipping and it was confirmed that the shipment was going to Aruba.
Euro Shipping, Paria said, produced a redacted sales contract with a local, Aruban buyer.
However, the Aruban government has since said that not only did it now have any deal with T&T, but it is the only body authorised to conduct any fuel sales and that the ship, MT Aldan, never entered Aruban waters or indicated to the Aruban harbour master that it intended to berth in Aruban docks.
“After they leave the port, they have to come back to you and say, look, I’ve changed destinations,” Allum said.
Allum said he did not recall such an incident ever occurring during his tenure.
“Different traders behave differently,” he said.
He said if it was a customary sale and there was a measure of trust, then the sanctions clause could have been omitted. That was not the case in this instance, however, as it was Paria’s first business dealing with Euro Shipping and the company had a history with Paria.
“I presume what happened in this case, because they going to another port than what they stated originally, they had to amend the document,” he said.
Allum said such actions should lead to a blacklisting of the company and Paria should not conduct any business with them in the future.
“It’s the only recourse,” he said.
Former chief executive officer at Petrotrin, Khalid Hassanali said he has been out of the industry for five years and was not sure what was the normal protocol now.
“When I was there the legal department would handle those details,” he said.
He said that the sanctions clause was a normal part of the contract.
“Somebody made a decision, but I have no idea,” he said.
He said that contracts usually have a normal template and the particulars were changed for each client.
When asked if the general terms included a sanctions clause, Hassanali said he had no idea what was being done now.
Paria GM and chairman silent
Guardian Media attempted to contact Joanne Sinanansingh, who currently heads the legal department at Paria, although she read both messages on WhatsApp, there was no response.
Guardian Media has also been trying to contact Mohammed and George.
On May 18, Guardian Media sent questions to Mohammed and in a follow-up phone call, Mohammed said he could not respond until he conferred with his chairman.
He did not respond but the company put out an advertisement last Monday instead and Guardian Media sought clarification:
“The clause in the contract that forbade the buyer from selling to a sanctions country, does this mean that Paria will be seeking some sort of legal redress?”
Is there any legal action that Paria can take against a purchaser who violates the contract or the sanction clause?
The Aruban Government said that they are the only one authorised to purchase fuel for the country. What does this mean for the sale?
The Aruban government today said that there was MT Aldan never entered its waters. If a buyer breached the contract and even produced a redacted copy of a bill of sale, is there any legal recourse for Paria?
Is Paria concerned about the fall out from the deal?
Silence from George:
What was the cost of the 150,000 barrels of fuel?
If two assurances and two clauses were needed, what red flags were raised in the due diligence that necessitated its inclusion in the contract?
Is ensuring that the fuel not end up in a sanctions country a new part of contracts or one added specifically for this sale?
How much did Euro Shipping pay for the gas?
The clause in the contract that forbade the buyer from reselling to a sanctioned country, does this mean that Paria will be seeking legal redress?
Is there any legal action that Paria can take against a purchaser who violates the contract or the sanctions clauses?
The Aruban government said they are the only one authorised to purchase fuel for the country. What does that mean for the sale?
The Aruban Government says that the tanker, Aldan, never entered its waters. Does this signify a breach in the contract?
Does Paria have any legal recourse?
What does redacted mean?
To redact is to edit, or prepare for publishing. Frequently, a redacted document, such as a memo or e-mail message, has simply had personal (or possibly actionable) information deleted or blacked out; as a consequence, redacted is often used to describe documents from which sensitive information has been expunged.