The Reconstruction of Cuba’s Matanzas Supertanker Base Accumulates Delays

The authorities pointed out that only two tanks of the four that originally existed will be built / Matanzas Fuel Marketer

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 April 2024 —  The reconstruction of the fuel tanks at the Matanzas Supertanker Base is progressing at a slow pace. Four months after the deadline that the authorities set for the construction of the first tank, the images shared days ago by the Matanzas Fuel Marketer reveal that the structure of the tank is only half-built, and according to the official press, it is still undergoing “welding work.”

The delay has a high economic cost for the country. With no onshore storage, coastal tankers (smaller-scale ships that do not leave Cuban waters) must be used as substitutes to receive imported crude oil. This is what is happening now with the NS Concord, which arrived in Matanzas with 684,000 barrels of Russian oil.

An article published this Monday in Girón ignores some of the advances that have been made in the repair of the Base, destroyed in August 2022 by a serious fire that left 17 dead – several of them young people who were serving in fire brigade units – and 146 injured. “The welding work continues to mark the critical route in the construction of tank 88,” mainly in “the verticals, the assembly of the storage and the construction of the fire wall.”

“The welding work continues to mark the critical route in the construction of tank 88”   

The newspaper also emphasizes that the staff works to recover in the shortest possible time “the vitality of the strategic enclave, and to convert the terminal and the entire industrial area into a sufficiently robust economic sector, less vulnerable and with a more modern image.” It also added that instead of the original four tanks, only two will be built, which will allow a greater safe distance between the two, and they will have dams “prepared to comfortably retain all the fuel in the event of a spill.”

In January 2023, a report by the official newspaper Granma stressed that within four years the Base would recover its original capacity of 200,000 cubic meters, but mentioned the reconstruction of the four tanks, although with a smaller diameter, contrary to this week’s information.

However, it did clarify the “improvements” that the tanks would have, including the extension of the distance between one tank and another to 110 meters, almost four times more than previously, without mentioning that the proximity between the tanks was recognized by several experts as a possible aggravating factor of the accident.

Also on that occasion Granma pointed out that the tanks would have an underground electrical system, a concrete-lined earth dam, more powerful foam cannons and “a new position for firefighters in case of emergency, established at a greater distance from the tanks.”

In April 2023, at a Government meeting, Miguel Díaz-Canel asked for details about the progress of the “work, supported by a million-dollar investment that includes technological and urban construction.” He did not mention the origin of the money for the rehabilitation of the Base, whether it comes from the State or Venezuelan coffers. After the fire, Venezuela promised to help in the restoration of the deposits that had been built 10 years earlier with money from Caracas.

According to a statement by Nicolás Maduro after the fire, the Island could count on the “scientific, technical, engineering and workers’ support” of Venezuela   

According to a statement by Nicolás Maduro after the fire, the Island could count on the “scientific, technical, engineering and workers’ support” of Venezuela, and he ordered the Minister of Oil to contact the Cuban authorities. Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Pdvsa, also participated in the extinguishing of the fire.

Rigel Rodríguez Cubells, director of Matanzas Fuel Marketing, explained to Díaz-Canel that, after completing the recovery work in the piping, firefighting and water supply systems, as well as in the maintenance workshops – not yet finished at that time – it could be “operated with greater safety in the facilities.”

The Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O Levy, also reported that weekly checks were carried out in the enclave to ensure the “investment.” The Matanzas authorities then promised the imminent delivery of 18 houses to the families of the 26 homes damaged during the fire.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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