Exports of Venezuelan crude to the United States fell almost 7 percent in March versus the same month of 2015 to 793,581 barrels per day (bpd), according to Thomson Reuters Trade Flows data, affected by delays at the country's main oil port
Even though the sales recovered versus the previous two months, when they hit record lows, the increase was not enough to reach last year levels.
State-run oil company PDVSA and its joint ventures sent 52 crude cargoes to the United States last month, according to the data, made with preliminary figures. PDVSA's refining unit, Citgo Petroleum
, was the main receiver, along with Valero Energy , Phillips 66 and Chevron Corp.
Sales of traditional crudes loaded at ports different than Jose, which has been affected by equipment failure in recent weeks, remained stable, but exports of diluted crude oil (DCO) and blends such as Merey suffered a significant decrease.
PDVSA's spot sales to customers in the United States also declined with only two cargoes of Boscan heavy crude and Morichal blend arriving in March for Lukoil Panamericas and PBF Energy's Delaware City refinery.
Serious delays to load and discharge at Jose created a backlog of tankers around Venezuela that at the end of March also extended to the Caribbean island of Curacao, where PDVSA has storage and blending facilities, limiting its oil exports.
At the end of March, PDVSA's shipments from Venezuela and Curacao including oil and diluents re-exported as blends declined almost 300,000 bpd from a year earlier to 1.64 million bpd, according to the same data.
Several shipments of Venezuelan crudes loaded at Jose port arrived
in the United States under its typical volume of some 500,000 bpd.
These problems have also affected PDVSA's recent imports. The company received a 995,000-barrel cargo of Nigeria's Brass River crude on March 18, but tanker Orpheas, with U.S. light crude sold by French oil firm Total, has not discharged at after arriving in Curacao on March 22, according to Thomson Reuters vessel tracking data.
(Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Alistair Bell)