As Hurricane Irma leaves a path of death and destruction in its wake, oil terminals across the northern Caribbean have come to a virtual stop.
The ripple effect is a worsening of an already short supply of crude to Latin America as U.S. Gulf Coast oil exports have also been severely hampered due to widespread flooding by Hurricane Harvey, according to Reuters.
An oil trader that rents tanks in St. Croix said, “Irma is arriving at a bad moment. Not all oil storage facilities in the Caribbean have closed, but vessel traffic is difficult in the middle of the storm, according to Reuters. “It will get worse before getting any better.”
Meanwhile, the largest owner of oil storage facilities in the Caribbean, U.S. firm Buckeye Partners, said it plans to close its Puerto Rican Yabucoa terminal.
With Caribbean refineries and storage facilities restrained and oil ports, refineries and production platforms in the U.S. states of Texas and Louisiana shut down, Latin America countries with limited ability to refine crude oil, including Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia, are scrambling to get supplies.
However, as a number of U.S. trading firms relocated fuel inventories to the Caribbean prior to Hurricane Harvey's arrival, now, Hurricane Irma is making it more difficult to move what has been stored. Reuters reported that the bulk of that supply is stored in terminals in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Puerto Rico and St. Eustatius.
Nevertheless, with storm winds registered at almost 185 mph, causing widespread destruction in several Caribbean islands, Hurricane Irma is showing no signs of letting up.
It is one of the most powerful and longest lasting Category 5 storms ever recorded in the region.