Wednesday 1 June 2016 1:12 pm

There are 2m barrels of oil stuck in the Caribbean sea because Venezuela can’t afford to pay BP

Four oil tankers carrying more than 2m barrels of oil are stuck in the Caribbean sea because of cash-strapped Venezuela.

The cargo of US crude oil cannot discharge at a terminal there until it’s been paid for by Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA.

The firm initially offered to pay for the imports with Venezuelan oil, but negotiations fell through because the proposed loading windows and crude grades did not work for BP, which owns the stranded barrels.

Read more: Socialism has created a humanitarian disaster in Venezuela

Nevertheless, it represents a relatively small slice of the multi-billion barrels being stored by oil producers traders, pipeline operators and refiners across the globe.

Low oil prices have already forced PDVSA to delay payments to suppliers, prompting oil services firms such as Schlumberger and Halliburton to curtail operations in the Opec member state.

They’ve also helped push Venezuela’s economy to its worst recession in more than 70 years. Economists have since said macroeconomic mismanagement left it more susceptible to the commodities rout than other oil exporters.

Read more: Oil slides away from $50 ahead of Opec meeting

Venezuela's citizens have endured months of energy rationing, food shortages and soaring prices — amid a marked reversal of fortunes for what was once the wealthiest country in South America with oil reserves among the largest in the world.

The recession has coincided with a power crisis that’s resulted in public sector workers working a two-day week. This came on the back of four-hour blackouts for at least 40 days, plunging towns and cities across the country into darkness.

An El Niño-induced drought has caused water levels at the stricken country's main hydroelectric dam, El Guri, to drop dramatically. But critics say better investment in and maintenance of Venezuela's energy infrastructure would've softened the blow.