Anchored in Regla, the Mysterious Sixth Turkish ‘Patana’ Contracted by Cuba Is Called ‘Erol Bey’

Suheyla Sultan, the most visible Turkish patana in Havana, generates 240 megawatts. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 15 February 2024 — Anchored in the inlet of Guanabacoa and protected from the curiosity of habaneros, the exact location of the Erol Bey Turkish floating power plant — commonly called a ’patana’ — with its four chimneys, is not known. Located next to an industrial area, a 1,476-foot esplanade separates it from the Regla generator group to which it seems connected.

The Erol Bey, which appeared on Wednesday as the “patana of Regla,” provides 63 megawatts (MW) to the Electric Union. It is the third ship of the Turkish company Karpowership currently installed in Havana, along with the very visible Suheyla Sultan, with 240 MW, and the Belgin Sultan, with 15 MW. Silos, warehouses and flour mills surround the pier where the Erol Bey is anchored, and it can be reached by Nuestra Señora de la Caridad Street, in the municipality of Regla.

According to the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), the patanas contributed 2,591 gigawatt-hours (GWh) in 2022, which represents 14% of the country’s total generation (18,323 GWh).

The Erol Bay, seen from Havana, is accessible only from the industrial area that surrounds it, something only possible for those who work in the surrounding factories, as a reporter from 14ymedio was able to verify.

Neither the records of Karpowership nor its project in Cuba, where it installed floating power plants for the first time in 2019, allude to the Erol Bey

The satellite images, on the other hand, clearly show the ship, smaller in size than the Suheyla Sultan, located in the port of Havana, and with four chimneys that, this Thursday, emitted a weak smoke.

Neither Karpowership’s records nor its project in Cuba, where it installed floating power plants for the first time in 2019, allude to the Erol Bey. A report by the Turkish media Deniz Haber Ajansi mentions the acquisition, by Karpowership, of a Norwegian oil tanker manufactured in South Korea, which it called – as an “example of loyalty” – Erol Bey, in honor of the then president of the Maritime Council of Turkey, businessman Erol Yücel.

However, it is not known if this ship, transformed into a patana, is the same one that is anchored in Havana. An argument in favor of this change is that, along with this ship, Karpowership bought another “twin” oil tanker that it did turn into a patana. This is the Esra Sultan, which, in 2023, was in the Dominican Republic. For both ships, the Turkish company paid 14 million dollars.

Maritime tracking applications have not given news of the Erol Bey’s location since 2017.

The Cuban government has been hermetic about the contracting of Turkish floating power plants. To achieve estimate of the cost, this newspaper searched for the information in the Dominican Republic, which contracted for two patanas – including the Esra Sultan – for which it paid 40 million dollars for a duration of 42 months. Applying the same calculation to Cuba, the cost would be 109 million for the same period, or 31 million per year.

However, if Karpowership and Havana share anything, it is the lack of clarity about their transactions, and it is impossible to know how much the Island is paying for them. This is not only an economic issue but also an environmental one. The patanas, as the Cubans in Havana know very well, are pollution bombs.

Immersed in an energy crisis, the country suffers constant blackouts, and its facilities go from breakdown to breakdown. Given the lack of fuel, the regime turns to its allies, who do not stop sending oil tankers to Cuban ports, often at the risk of non-payments.

An emblematic case is Mexico, whose oil company, Pemex, according to the newspaper El País, has accumulated a debt of 106 billion dollars, says the credit rating agency Moody’s.

“Cuba and Mexico have not made public the financing agreement for the more than 5.5 million barrels of oil sent by Pemex to Cuba during 2023, with an estimated market value of 390 million dollars,” University of Texas expert Jorge Piñón explains to this newspaper. The quantities sent in “January and February of this year indicate that the supply of Mexican oil to Cuba will not only continue, but could also increase,” he says.

To prove it, the expert says, there are the trips from Mexico to Cuba of the ships Vilma, Ocean Mariner and Delsa – which  transported 1.1 million barrels in January and February, and the Esperanza, which joins the route. The Esperanza, one of the ships that traveled between Venezuela and the Island, is abandoning its old route in favor of Mexico. “Is this a sign of fewer supplies from Venezuela or a simple rotation of tankers?” asks Piñón.

Another important player in Cuba’s oil energy destination is Russia, whose chancellor, Sergey Lavrov, will visit Cuba soon. The diplomat will have numerous topics of conversation with Havana. Among them, the estimated debt of 566 million dollars for shipments of 7 million barrels of oil during 2022, and 1.6 million in 2023.

From that visit, Piñón concludes, many decisions will come out that will affect the geopolitical balance of the region, in particular of Venezuela and Mexico, with tense elections ahead in 2024, and of Cuba, which depends on its allies to survive.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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