New on this conflict is not easy to find; however, a couple updates on the apparently continuing saga.Helmerich & Payne sues Venezuela after rig seizure
September 27, 2011Venezuela Holds U.S. Vessel And Crew On Suspicion Of Arms Trafficking
TULSA — Helmerich & Payne Inc., which operated in Venezuela for more than five decades, is suing for hundreds of millions of dollars owed after the South American nation broke drilling contracts and seized rigs last year, a spokesman for the Tulsa-based firm said Monday.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Washington, D.C., federal court, seeks $32 million in back payments from previous services for Venezuela and “hundreds of millions” on the value of 11 rigs seized in June 2010, said Steve Mackey, general counsel for Helmerich & Payne.
“We're seeking damages for the taking of our drilling business and also breach of contract,” he said.
Helmerich & Payne's problems with the Venezuelan government and the national Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) oil company go back years. The nationalized industry missed numerous payments on existing drilling contracts operated by the Tulsa firm.
“They got more and more behind,” Mackey said. “We were trying to negotiate with them on solutions up to the time they took our rigs.”
The Venezuelan government has seized a U.S. flagged ship and detained its captain for more than a week.
Since August 29 the ship Ocean Atlas has been at port in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where it docked to unload a cargo of equipment. Yet after four hours in port, the ship was boarded and searched by armed security personel, and the captain was detained on suspicion of trafficking in arms or drugs. The captain has been identified as Jeffrey Michael Raider, 45, of Texas.
The rest of the crew of 15 Americans has remained on board under guard. According to a well-placed source arrest warrants have been issued for all of the crewmembers, who are to be taken off the ship for questioning.
Incredibly, my Forbes colleague Jeff Bercovici has been in touch over email with one of the crewmen, Russell Macomber, who has managed to post updates to his Facebook account while under detention.
In a sardonic tone, Macomber even relayed that when Venezuelan authorities raided the Ocean Atlas they stole cartons of cigarettes, ate the crew’s ice cream and let their dogs defecate on the deck. Macomber writes that he would like nothing more than an airdrop of Budweiser.