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Lago / Creole / Lagoven Petroleum Corp.
History of the Lago Oil Shipping Co., Ltd.
Lago Shipping Company Ltd.    (From : SAILING SHIP TO SUPERTANKER)

In 1921 a Standard Oil affiliate, Standard Oil of Venezuela, was formed to carry on oil exploration in that country.
In 1924 the Lago Oil and Transport Company Ltd., (Lago is Spanish for lake) was registered in Canada and its ships,
in the name of Lago Shipping Company Ltd., placed under the management of the British firm of ship owners and
ship managers, Andrew Weir and Company Ltd. In the next year, after an extensive tour of the area by a management
team, a decision was made that San Nicolas, some ten miles east of Oranjestad on the island of Aruba and eighteen
miles off the Venezuelan coast was to be their terminal for the transshipping of crude oil from Lake Maracaibo to
ocean-going tankers. At that time, San Nicolas was merely a reefed bay with a narrow entrance, and the necessary
widening of the entrance and dredging of the hay began at the end of 1925. In that year two small tank ships arrived
from Britain to begin work, followed by a slightly larger third ship.
Meanwhile orders had been placed with Harland and Wolff Ltd., Belfast, for four specially designed ships for
Maracaibo Lake work, and all were delivered between March and July of 1925. The Belfast yard immediately
began constructing a larger group of similar ships and delivery of those began in May, 1926. However in their
naming, the “Inver” tag was dropped and the ships were given local Venezuelan names, although still registered
at London.
In November, 1927, the company officially opened San Nicolas harbour for crude oil transshipment. The “Maracaibo”
ships usually worked in convoys, their voyage timings being governed by high water at the Maracaibo bar so that
loading time and discharge time had to be phased in with high water time to ensure the most economical voyage.
San Nicolas was now beginning to grow and storage tanks were mushrooming. Plans were drawn up in 1927 for
a refinery there, and with it came the ancillary buildings, including those for the work force. The refinery came “on
stream” in 1929 and was to become one of the world's largest and most important refineries. It was to play a
large part in the Pacific war operations of 1942-45, with many U.S. Navy' ships bunkering there on their way via
the Panama Canal.
Slightly larger tankers were still being turned out by Harland and Wolff at Belfast, and dredging was increased,
although tankers were not only employed on the run to Aruba but carried cargoes to Cuba and other West Indian
ports of the Caribbean.
In 1928 Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) obtained a major interest in the Creole Petroleum Corporation, a
company that had been organized in 1920 to operate in Venezuela. In another purchase in 1932, this time from
Standard Oil Company (Indiana), Standard Oil of New Jersey acquired ownership of Lago Petroleum Corporation,
not the British concern of similar name but a producing company with wide holdings in the Lake Maracaibo area.
With it came ownership of their refinery at Aruba. in the same year Standard Oil of New Jersey also acquired the
fleet of Lago Shipping Company Ltd., the British affiliated company, which then owned twenty-one tankers
designed and built to carry crude oil from Lake Maracaibo to Aruba. Two of the larger ships, Ule and Surinam,
were transferred to Standard Oil of Venezuela for service in the eastern part of the country, but the remainder
continued to be managed by the Andrew Weir agency in Aruba, the same concern as had managed the fleet in
the past. Also in 1932 Creole disposed of its Lake tankers in order that Lago Shipping might handle the
transportation of all the crude oil of the two Standard Oil affiliates from Lake Maracaibo.
From 193 I until the beginning of World War Two, the affiliated foreign companies of Standard Oil of New Jersey
encountered the same sort of tanker operating problems as did their American sister companies. In Europe,
affiliates joined three agreements designed to provide for more efficient use of their tanker fleets. The first, in
1931, provided a pooling of tonnage, both owned and chartered, and a group consortium to which the vessels
themselves were chartered; rates for hire and freight were fixed, each affiliate agreeing to share in the earnings
or losses in proportion to the cargo carried for its account. The basis of these rates was changed five times
in two years, but in general the rates were tied to the market rates for time or voyage charters. The second
agreement, to run for five years from January, 1933, included Anglo-American itself. The third one, effective
at the beginning of 1938, determined the freight rates to be used as the basis for the charges. In fact, this
agreement provided the basis for arrangements by the British Government during the war. The scheduled
freight rates for these European affiliates always fluctuated more widely than those paid by their American
companies In the main this difference was due to the American tankers being operationally more flexible
since they could be used in foreign trade, whereas foreign tankers could not be used for American transport.
During this time, Lago Shipping overcame a problem in the handling of its Lake tankers. The ships each with
a crew of twenty-eight, operated on voyages through Lake Maracaibo to Aruba, a trip which took fifteen hours,
if all went well. But the trips were made hazardous by the shifting sand bar at the entrance to the Gulf of
Venezuela. In 1938 continuous dredging by the ex-tanker Invercaibo, which had been converted to this use,
was started. By 1939, the dredging, combined with the scouring action of the tankers, made it safe to use
larger ships.
Previously, in 1937, the management of Lago Shipping had been transferred from Andrew Weir and Company
to the direct control of the Anglo-American Oil Company, and further ships were added to the fleet over the
following two years. By 1939 the Lago fleet included nine tankers each capable of carrying 30,000 barrels of
oil per trip and fourteen each with a 20,000 barrel capacity.
Meanwhile, of the Standard Oil of New Jersey subsidiaries working in the Venezuela lake area, Compania de
Petroleo Lago (formed in 193 1 as the Lago Petroleum Corporation) utilized four small tankers for the transport
of gasoline and other products to the Venezuelan market. Standard Oil of Venezuela, which used
shallow-draught tankers and others with partial loads had, by 1939, turned to the more economic use of
ocean-going tankers which could carry crude oil or its products from Caripito to other deepwater terminals.
In 1943, most of the Standard Oil's interests in Venezuela were consolidated into the Creole Petroleum
Corporation, and a group of seven tankers for the Lake were built at Duluth and three more by the Bethlehem
Shipbuilding Company at their Sparrows Point Shipyard. The ten were placed under Creole Petroleum
ownership, with registration at Panama. After the war ended, four were transferred to Esso Petroleum
Company Ltd., for British coastal work. Dredging of the channel to Lake Maracaibo led to redundancies
in the shallow-draught tanker fleet and the ships were gradually sold. Sales included the Icotea, Tamare,
Ule and Surinam which were towed, in tandem, from Venezuela to British Columbia in 1954. Three were
converted to self-dumping log barges and one to a rail-wagon carrier.

Fleet list

Built by Harland and Wolff Ltd., Glasgow (two vessels)

Name  :   Date Completed  :   Grosstons

Inverampton   11.1920      767
Built for British Mexican Petroleum Co. Ltd. (qv).

Francunion    4.1921     737
Built for Cia Venture-Weir S.A., Algiers (A. Weir & Co.).
1925: (Lago)
1933: (British Mexican) (qv).

Built by Wm Gray and Company Ltd., West Hartlepool

Invercorrie   5.1918     1,126
Built as Palmol for the Admiralty.
2.1920: Invercorrie (British Mexican) (qv).

Built by Harland and Wolff Ltd., Belfast (seventeen vessels)

Details:     Length 315 feet (oa)/305.6 feet X 50.2 feet breadth x 11.7 feet draught. Two boilers
fed steam to two sets of triple expansion engines. Twin screws. There was a long trunk deck
on which the bridge-house was constructed.

Inverlago   3.1925     2,372
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1949: (Trinidad Shipping Co. Ltd.).
1959: (Challenger Ltd., Bermuda).
2.3.1965: Arrived Santander in tow of tug Jantar (with Inverruba, see below) for breaking up.
6.1965: Scrapped Santander.

Inverrrosa   4.1925     2,372
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1949: (Trinidad Shipping Co. Ltd.).
1959: (Challenger Ltd., Bermuda).
1962: Converted to ore carrier, Oil engines fitted (length 328 feet oa, 2,953 gt, 3,106 tdw).
1963: (Union Carbide Corp. (Ortran Ltd., British flag)).
8.5.1968: Damaged by stranding off Boca Ralon, Florida.
23.5.1968: Refloated, laid up at Jacksonville.
12.1971: Sold at public auction (Omega Manufactura S.A., Mexico). Towed to Tampico, and
1.1973: Scrapped Tampico.

Invercaibo  6.1925     2,372
1938: Converted to a suction hopper dredger for Lake  Maracaibo service.
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
4.1953: Scrapped Baltimore.

Inverruba  7.1925     2,372
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1950: (Trinidad Shipping Co. Ltd.).
1960: (Challenger Ltd., Bermuda).
2.3.1965: Arrived Santander in tow of tug Jantar (with Inverlago, see above) for breaking up.
1965: Scrapped Santander.

San Nicolas     5.1926     2,391
16.2.1942: Sunk by submarine (U.502) torpedo 25 miles south west of Punta Macolla, Gulf of Maracaibo (voyage Lake Maracaibo/Aruba).

Ambrosio     7.1926     2,391
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1950: (Trinidad Shipping Co. Ltd.).
1959: (Challenger Ltd., Bermuda).
1960: Converted to an ore carrier, oil engines fitted (length 328 feet oa, 2,959 gt, 3,149 tdw).
1963: (Union Carbide Corp., (Ortran Ltd., British flag)).
1968: (Government of Guyana).
1975: Out of service, laid up Essequibo River, Georgetown. Intended to be beached and converted to maritime training school, and
1976: Engine removed. Reported sold to local shipbreakers, but
10.1980: Wreck of vessel reported still lying in position 06.49N 58.1 1W.

Icotea     6.1927     2,395
1938: (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
1954: Sold, converted to a rail wagon carrying barge, renamed Island Cedar (Island Tug & Barge Co. Ltd., Vancouver, Canada).

Lagunilla     6.1927     2,395
1938: (Standard Oil Co. of Venezuela).
1943: (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
2.1953: Scrapped Boston, Massachusetts.

La Salina     6.1927     2,395
1938: (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
9.1953: Scrapped Mobile, Alabama.

San Carlos      7.1927      2,395
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1953: (Government of Dominica).
29.5.1965: Wrecked on breakwater at Rio Haina after breaking moorings in heavy weather.

Sabaneta       9.1927     2,395
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1953: Esso Santa Fe (Esso Transportadora de Petroleo S.A., Argentina).
1954: (Esso S.A. Petrolera, Argentina).
1963: (Petromar S.A. de Nav., Argentina).
1964: Reduced to a bunkering vessel for river service only.
1971: Reported scrapped Argentina.

Oranjestad       9.1927     2,395
16.2.1942: Sunk by submarine (U.156) torpedo while at anchor off San Nicolas, Aruba. (See also Pedernales, below).

Punta Benitez     3.1928     2,394
1937: Criollo Fiel (Cia Transportadora de Petroleo S.A., Argentina).
1938: Esso Campana.
1954: (Esso S.A. Petrolera, Argentina).
1963: (Petromar S.A. de Nav., Argentina).
1971: (Esso S.A. Petrolera, Argentina).
9.1978: Scrapped Campana, Argentina.

Tia Juana      4.1928     2,394
16.2.1942: Sunk by submarine (U.502) torpedo 25 miles south-west of Punta Macolla, Gulf of Maracaibo (voyage Lake Maracaibo/Aruba).

Hooiberg   4.1928     2,394
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1953: Esso Entre Rios (Esso Transportadora de Petroleo S.A., Argentina).
1954: (Esso S.A. Petrolera, Argentina).
1963: Entre Rios (Rio Lujan Nay., Argentina).
1981: Reported scrapped Argentina, but still listed in shipping registers.

Punta Corda     5.1928     2,394    
18.9.1944: Collision with tanker Ampetco (1926/8,718 gt), caught fire and sank off Cape San Roman, Curacao, (voyage Lake Maracaibo/Aruba-crude oil).

Yamanota   6.1928     2,394
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1953: Esso Formosa (Esso Transportadora de Petroleo S.A., Argentina).
1954: (Esso S.A. Petrolera, Argentina).
1963: (S.A. de Nav. Petromar, Argentina).
1966: Scrapped Buenos Aires.

Built by Harland and Wolff Ltd., Belfast (three vessels)

Details:     Length 325 feet x 55.2 feet breadth.
Two sets of triple expansion engines.
Twin screws. Trunk deck.

Tamare      5.1929 3,046
1938: (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
1954 Sold, converted to a barge, renamed Island Maple (island Tug & Barge Co. Ltd., Vancouver, Canada).
22.10.1963: Broke in two in high seas off Cape Flattery while in tow of tug Sadbury. Forepart sank, stern section
capsized but remained afloat. Later scuttled in deep water (voyage Rayonier, British Columbia/Hoquiam,
Washington-wood pulp liquid chemical).

Ule        5.1929     3,046
1932: (Standard Oil Co. of Venezuela).
1934: (Lago Shipping Co. Ltd.).
1935: (Standard Oil Co. of Venezuela).
1943: (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
1954: Sold, converted to a log-carrying barge, renamed Island Balsam (Island Tug & Barge Co. Ltd., Vancouver, Canada).

Surinam    5.1929     3,046
1933: (Standard Oil Co. of Venezuela).
1943: (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
1954: Sold, converted to a barge, renamed Island Cypress (Island Tug & Barge Co. Ltd., Vancouver, Canada).
14.10.1963: Broke in two and sank in gale off mouth of Quillayute River while in tow of tug Sudbury II (voyage
to Hoquiam, Washington-wood pulp liquid chemical).

Built by Harland and Wolff Ltd., Belfast

Details:     Length 360.6 feet X 60.2 feet breadth.
Two sets of triple expansion engines.
Twin screws.
Trunk deck.
6.193 1

Maracay     6.193 1     3,794
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1953: (Creole Petroleum Corp., Panama).
1957: Esso Maracay (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
1958: Sold, renamed Waalhaven (N.V. Simons Metalhaandel, Holland) for voyage to shipbreakers.
11.9.1959: Arrived Osaka in tow of tug Barentsz Zee for breaking up.

Built by Howaldtswerke A.G., Kiel

Details:     Length 362 feet length x 64.2 feet breadth.
Two sets of triple expansion engines.
Twin screws.
Trunk deck.

Andino  9.1935     4,569
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transportation Co.).
1953: (Creole Petroleum Corp., Panama).
10.1958: Scrapped Bordentown, New Jersey.

Built by Johnson Ironworks, New Orleans

Details:     Length 100 feet X 24 feet breadth.
Engine:     C2cyl.

Delaplaine (tug)   1920     182
Built for Mexican registry. Renamed Pepe Morales (Pan American Petroleum & Transport Co. Ltd., Tampico).
1931: Delaplaine (Lago Shipping Co., London).
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1952: (Lago Oil & Transport Co. Ltd., Toronto, (Panama flag)).
1952: (Lago Oil & Transport Co. Ltd., Aruba, (Panama flag)).
1955: (Esso Standard Oil S.A., Cuba, (Panama flag)).
1965: Cedros (Trinidad Shipping Co. Ltd.), reengined with oil engine.
6.1973: Scrapped Spain.

Built by Furness Shipbuilding Company Ltd., Haverton Hill-on-Tees

Details:     Length 351 feet x 60 feet breadth.
Two sets of triple expansion engines.
Twin screws.

Cumarebo     6.1934     4,085
Built as Creollo Fiel for Cia Transportadora de Petroleo S.A., Argentina.
1937: Cumarebo (Lago Shipping Co.).
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.) (3,537 gt).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1952: (Creole Petroleum Corp., Panama).
12.1958: Arrived Philadelphia for scrapping.

Built by Furness Shipbuilding Company Ltd., Haverton Hill-on-Tees (two vessels)

Details:     Length 379.4 feet (oa)/371 feet X 64.2 feet breadth.
Two sets of triple expansion engines.
Twin screws.

Bachaquero     5.1937     4,193
1941: Requisitioned by Admiralty and converted to a Tank Landing Ship (F.110).
1945: Returned to owners.
1946: (Panama Transport Co.).
1952: Esso Bachaquero (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
25.4.1955: Grounded near La Salina; sustained heavy bottom damage.
26.4.1955: Refloated, towed to La Salina, laid up. Later sold and repaired.
1956: Petro Lago (Maritima Aragua S.A., Venezuela).
9.1960: Scrapped Cardiff.

Misoa  7.1937     4,193
1941: Requisitioned by Admiralty and converted to a Tank landing Ship (F.117).
1945: Returned to owners.
1946: (Panama Transport Co.).
1952: (Creole Petroleum Corp., Panama).
1955: Petro Mar (Maritima Aragua S.A., Venezuela).
1957: Stanvac Riau (Lennox Corp., Liberia (Standard Vacuum Oil Co.)).
1962: Scrapped Hong Kong.

Built by Furness Shipbuilding Company Ltd., Haverton Hill-on-Tees (two vessels)

Details:     Length 365.2 feet (oa)/356 feet X 60 feet breadth.
Two sets of triple expansion engines.
Twin screws.

Boscan     12.1937     3,953
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1952: (Creole Petroleum Corp., Panama).
1956: (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
1959: Esso Boscan (Maritima Aragua S.A., Venezuela).
1959: Sold to Terminales de Maracaibo (Signal Oil Co.); used as a storage ship.
1965: Scrapped Spain.

Tasajera    3.1938     3,952
1941: Requisitioned by Admiralty and converted to a Tank Landing Ship (F.125).
1945: Returned to owners.
1946: (Panama Transport Co.).
1948: Esso Avila (Cia de Petroleo Lago, Venezuela).
1955: PetroAvila (Maritima Aragua S.A., Venezuela).
2,1.1956: Broke in two about ten miles north-east of Maracaibo Bar entrance. Sank.

The three vessels Bachaquero, Misoa and Tasajera (above) were requisitioned by the Admiralty
in 1941 and converted to become Tank Landing Ships, having been selected because of their
shallow draught and the ease with which they could be put ashore on a beach. They were, in
fact, the first LSTs (Landing Ships, Tank).
The landing of troops and equipment on beaches in “combined operations” has been performed
throughout history using craft of all kinds, but not until 1924, when a Landing Craft Committee-a
military inter-service body-was formed, was there any probability of specialized landing craft being
constructed. This led to an experimental ship, forty feet long, of sixteen tons and with a winched
bow ramp, being constructed by j. Samuel White and Company, of Cowes, Isle of Wight. It was
capable of carrying one hundred troops and, itself, had to be carried on a troopship before being
lowered to the water.
More experimental landing craft were built by J. I. Thornycroft and Company and after a good deal
of attention Thornvcroft's were asked to build an LCM (Mark I )-Landing Craft, Mechanised-which
completed trials in August, 1939, a few days before the outbreak of war. This craft was similar to
 the earlier experimental vessel but was fitted with petrol engines driving twin screws for 7' 2 knots,
instead of the waterjet propulsion of the earlier craft.
After conversion the three ex-Maracaibo tankers were capable of carrying two LCMs (Mark 1).
Alternatively, vehicle earning capacity was either 22 X 25-ton or 18 X 30-ton tanks or 33 X 3-ton
vehicles. There was also accommodation for 210 troops.
Apart from utilizing merchant vessels such as these, Landing Ships (Tank) were later built in
large numbers in the United States for the United States Navy; forty-five were built in the United
Kingdom and thirty-seven in Canada.

Built by Cantieri Riuniti Dell' Adriatico, Monfalcone, Italy (two vessels)

Details:     Length 365.2 feet length x 60.2 feet breadth.
Engine:     T6 cil. Twin screws.

Quiriquire     7.1938     3,945
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1952: (Creole Petroleum Corp., Panama).
1958: Esso Chaco (Esso S.A. Petrolera, Argentina).
1963: (S.A. de Nav. Petromar, Argentina).
1971: (Esso S.A. Petrolera, Argentina).
1979: Scrapped Argentina.

Pedernales     9.1938     3,945
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
1952: (Panama Transport Co.).
1952: (Creole Petroleum Corp., Panama).
1957: Esso Pedernales (Cia de Petroleo I.ago, Venezuela).
1959: Sold, renamed Katendrecht (NV. Simons Metaalhandel, Holland) for voyage to shipbreakers.
4.1960: Scrapped Holland.

The Pedernales and her companion ship Oranjestad (q.v.) were at anchor off San Nicolas, Aruba,
on 16th February, 1942, when both were torpedoed by the German submarine U.156. The
Oranjestad was sunk. The explosion on the Pedernales shattered and ruptured her mid-section,
but it was possible to beach the ship, although in forty-eight feet of water. Examination showed
that both the bow and stern sections were still in good condition and salvage was commenced.
The two ends were sealed and pumped out and the vessel was lifted and moved closer inshore.
Then the damaged mid-section was carefully dynamited to separate it from the undamaged parts.
These were then towed ashore and placed on a marine railway, where they were joined together.
A wooden navigating bridge and pilot house were erected on board, the machinery overhauled
and the shortened ship put to sea. The voyage from Aruba to Baltimore was made without mishap,
and there permanent repairs were carried out.
Again the ship was cut in two, a newly-built midbody was floated into her repair dock and the three
sections joined together, forming a new ship. The Pedernales then returned into service.

Built by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company Ltd., Newcastle

Details:     Length 280 feet x 47 feet breadth.
Engine:     T3cyl.

Esso Panama     1.1925     1,971    
Completed as Paragnana for Venezuelan Gulf Oil Co.,  Maracaibo.
1938: Motatan (Standard Oil Co. of Venezuela).
1939: Esso Panama (Lago Shipping Co. Ltd., London).
1947: (Esso Transportation Co.).
 8.1950: Scrapped Quebec.

Lake Maracaibo.

Venezuela is rich in oil and there are three areas of oil production. By far the greatest is Lake Maracaibo,
which yields some three-quarters of Venezuela's petroleum. Along its eastern shore is the great Bolivar
field where drilling has been extended to the Lake itself and which bears a forest of derricks and wells
drilled beneath its waters. There are more fields on the western side of the Lake and to its south-west.
Eastwards in the Llanos-the lowland plains-there is oil north of the Orinoco and more fields in the
Barinas-Apure basin in the central west Llanos. Long pipelines stretch to the Caribbean ports of Cabello
and La Cruz.
Lake Maracaibo is 130 miles long and varies from fifty to seventy miles in width. And as the story goes,
the Spanish navigator Amerigo Vespucci was sailing along the northern coast of South America in 1499
when he discovered the lake and was so reminded of Venice by the rough timber huts built on stilts in the
shore waters of the lake, that he called the place Venezuela-Spanish for Little Venice.
From Lake Maracaibo, northwards, is a strait about thirty-four miles long, five to ten miles wide, and this
leads to the Gulf of Maracaibo, about 150 miles wide and extending some seventy miles northwards
from the strait.
Concessions for the development of oil were sold in 1907 to British and North American companies
and in 1913, oil was discovered at Mena Grande, on the eastern shores of Lake Maracaibo. Early developers
were Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, Shell and Gulf Oil.
The first discovery was developed into four pools, the additions being at Ambrosio and La Rosa and later,
 in 1926, at Lagunillas. The north-east coast belt of the Lake and the adjoining offshore area was named
the Bolivar field.
At first, there was a problem, for the entrance to Lake Maracaibo was obstructed by a sand bar which
prohibited the entry of ocean-going tankers. In fact, no ships over eleven feet draught could cross.
Then in 1915-16 the Royal Dutch Shell company constructed a refinery at Willemstad on Curacao, an
island some thirty miles off the Venezuelan coast, to crack the crude oil to be brought from the mainland.
In 1917 the Curacaosche Seheepvaart Maatschappij began a tug/lighter weekly shuttle service across
the bar at Maracaibo to San Lorenzo, then returning to Curacao with the oil. This was under the
management of Curacaosche Petroleum Maatschappij who operated the tug Samson, 139 gt and
built for the service by J. Constant, Kierits and Company, Dordrecht, Holland, in 1917. She was 95½
feet in length, 21 feet in breadth and had triple expansion engines.
From the end of the Great War in 1918 the development of the Maracaibo oilfields area became of great
economic importance, for it was a natural source of crude supplies for the refineries of the North
Atlantic seaboard of the United States. Maracaibo is, indeed, about 150 miles nearer New York than
Tampico, Mexico, from where much oil was shipped during the 1914-18 war years and the 1920s.
 It is also seventy-five miles nearer to Standard Oil's refinery at Bayonne than the United States Gulf
ports from where oil was shipped.
The arrangement of the tug/lighter service proved uneconomic and in 1920, in the aftermath of war,
there came a reduction in British naval strength. In this period it was difficult to get shipbuilding orders
executed. Many schemes were floated for making commercial use of surplus war materials, and
Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company (Shell) acquired six monitors from the Royal Navy in January 1920
and two more in May for conversion to oil-carrying vessels for Maracaibo Lake. The eight monitors
acquired were part of a group of eighteen ordered from various yards in early 1915, mostly those which
had not done any naval work at all. Some were single deck ships, some had two decks. With twin
screws, some had oil engines and some were given triple expansion machinery; some had quadruple
screws. They were 177 feet (oa) in length; breadth was 31 feet and as commercial craft, the tonnages
were 490-500 gross.
Those acquired were Tiga (ex M.16), Toedjoe (M.1 7), and Anam (M.18), all from the yard of Wm Gray
and Company Ltd., Hartlepool; Ampat (M.32) from Workman, Clark Ltd., Belfast; and Delapan (M.19),
Lima (M.20), Sane (M.24) and Doewa (M.26) all built by Sir R. Dixon and Company Ltd., Middlesbrough.
The ships were purchased as a temporary measure pending the arrival of new ships and most of them
had been sold by 1924.
Meanwhile, orders were placed in Britain for shallow draught tankers, able to work their way from the
loading ports of the Lake, through the shifting sands of the Maracaibo bar to the ocean tanker anchorages
of the deep water bays. Many shallow draught tankers were to be constructed over the next two decades.
Here a few figures are offered to illustrate the growth of the Venezuelan oil area. When the United States entered the
war in April, 1917, the average daily production of oil was 618 barrels. From 1922 to 1926 Venezuelan production
doubled each year and by 1927 had increased to 62,775,000 barrels from a total of 355 producing wells. This averaged
172,000 barrels a day of which 142,000 were shipped, the difference being oil run into storage and then put through
local refineries and consumed as oil for drilling purposes. At the end of 1927 fifty-eight tankers, varying in size, were
employed in the Maracaibo operations by three operating companies and by the end of 1928 the gross production
approached one hundred million barrels.
In those days the depth of water on the outer Maracaibo bar was twelve to seventeen feet and on the
 inner bar at high water eleven to twelve feet, but in 1938 a shallow draught tanker, Invercaibo, was
withdrawn from service and converted into a suction dredger for deepening the water at the bar.

The reality of war came to the Maracaibo area in the early morning of 16th February, 1942, when three
U-boats, on “Operation Neuland”, shelled oil installations at Aruba and sank several tankers in a
four-hour attack. At San Nicolas, U.156 sank Lago Shipping Co´s Oranjestad and torpedoed the
Pedernales, which had to be beached. The same submarine also damaged the United States-flag
tanker Arkansas (1919, 6,452 gt) of The Texas Company, but all on board were saved. An hour later,
U.502 attacked three more ships, Lago Co.'s Tia Juana and San Nicolas both being torpedoed and
sunk twenty-five miles west of Punta Macollo and the 1927-built, 2,650 gt Monagas, belonging to the
Grande Oil Company of Venezuela, in the Gulf of Venezuela. The third submarine involved, U.67,
cruising off Curacao, damaged the Curacaosche Scheepvaart Maatschappij tanker Rafaela (1938/3,177 gt)
and shelled the refinery. But the lesson was learned, guns were fitted to the tankers and a convoy
system introduced; and although U-boats cruised in the area and made spasmodic attacks, there
were no further problems of this nature which affected the flow of oil.

Remark :
Don Gray mentioned the following information on this attack ;
Only U-156, under Kapitanleutenant Werner Hartenstein actually surfaced and attempted to (unsuccessfully)
bombard the Lago Refinery. Approximately eight to ten minutes prior to the 1:41 a.m., AST, refinery attack,
U-156 loosed torpedoes toward tankers Pedernales and Oranjestad. Hartenstein's log does not indicate that
any other U-boats, whether of Operation Neuland or other in the area, participated in the refinery attack.
Only U-156 participated in the refinery attack and the attack on the Pedernales or Oranjestad.

(D. Gray).  There has been speculation that other U-boats may have been involved in the refinery attack,
but neither official U-boat logs nor verifiable information have been forthcoming to substantiate the claim.

A year or so after the war ended there was new thinking regarding the problem of the Maracaibo bar.
Pipelines began to be laid carrying the crude oil from the Lake 160 miles north-eastwards to the
deepwater bays of the Paraguana Peninsula, to Amuay Bay where Creole Petroleum Corporation
have their large refinery, and to Punta Cardon.
A huge dredging programme was also begun, deepening the channel to the Lake, and by the early
1950s more dredging had increased the depth at the bar to twenty-five feet, enabling ocean-going
ships to reach the city of Maracaibo on the western shore of the entrance. But all this work led to
over-capacity in the shallow draught tanker tonnage using the lake and gradually ships were phased
out of service for disposal.
By the later 1950s, Venezuela was producing 15 % of the world's oil, accounting for over 90 % of the
country's export markets; 126 million tons was produced in 1956 by fourteen operating companies,
mostly associates of American groups. Three quarters of this production was from the Maracaibo
basin where the great Bolivar coastal field, the largest oilfield in South America with its 6,000-7,000
wells and forest of related derricks, stretches thirty-five miles along the north-east coast of Maracaibo
In 1960 came the first step towards nationalization of the industry in Venezuela. As far back as 1907
concessions had been sold to British and North American interests by Venezuela which, over the
years, received 50 % of the profits of the ten or more operating companies. These companies
produced the huge capital expenditure needed which, in those days, was far beyond the means
of Venezuela. This arrangement was revived at the end of war in 1945 when a higher profit yield
was sought and nationalization of the industry was intimated. So in 1960 the Corporacion Venezolana
de Petroleo (C.V.P.) was formed, a state company controlling some areas of production.
Nationalization took place on 1st January, 1976, with all concessions and assets placed under
Petroleos de Venezuela (Petroven) and with large sums of compensation paid to the foreign operators.
The constituents of Petroven were then renamed: Exxon became Lagoven; Shell-Maraven;
Gulf-Meneven and C.V.P., formed in 1960-Llanoven. Others followed ---Deltaven, Palmaven,
Boscanven….. .
On the Paraguana peninsula, Lagoven (Exxon) has a terminal at Amuay Bay, on the east side,
for large ocean-going tankers: four finger-piers for eight ships, of which two are for 1,000 foot
long vessels. There is also a Maraven (Shell) facility at Punta Cardon, four finger-piers providing
twelve berths for up to 900 foot vessels.
The Lake ports are mostly on its eastern shores. Some are moorings adjacent to jetties, but at
Bachaquero, Maraven have three berths and at La Salena Lagoven provide four berths for ships
to 110,000 tons deadweight. Puerto Miranda, a newer Maraven facility, has ten berths to a maximum
ship length of 910 feet and depth of water thirty-eight feet. Deltaven are at La Estacada, Palmaven
at Punta del Palma del Sur and Boscanven, on the west side of the Lake, are at Bajo Grande.
Maracaibo channel is dredged to forty-six feet and many of the ports of the Lake are dredged to
that depth.
At the end of 1984 it was announced that the Lago oil refinery at Aruba, Netherlands Antilles,
owned by Standard Oil (Exxon) was to close down after some sixty years of operation. A suggested
plan that Venezuela, as a major oil producer, might help keep the refinery in operation was turned
down and it closed in April, 1985. It had been the island's largest employer.
And after operating at only half-capacity for some years and facing mounting losses, Shell transferred
their refinery at Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, to the island authorities in October, 1985. The
agreement marked the end of almost seventy years under Shell's ownership.