HOUSTON, May 4 (Reuters) - Venezuelan crude sales to the United States declined 8.3 percent in April to 734,700 barrels per day (bpd) compared with the same month of 2015, amid delays at PDVSA's main ports, according to Thomson Reuters trade flows and vessel tracking data.
State-run oil firm PDVSA and its joint ventures sent a total of 45 crude cargoes to customers in the United States last month versus 54 cargoes in April of 2015 and 52 in March.
Equipment malfunctioning at Jose port has been occurring since March, causing delays to load and discharge tankers. This has also resulted in a backlog of vessels around PDVSA's Bullenbay terminal in the Caribbean island of Curacao.
PDVSA this week said it is installing three new loading arms to speed up operations at Jose.
PDVSA's refining unit in the United States, Citgo Petroleum, was the main receiver of Venezuelan crude in April with 13 cargoes, followed by Valero Energy with 11 cargoes and Phillips 66 with 7 cargoes.
Delays at Curacao to discharge imports of U.S. light crude that is being used as diluent for Venezuela's extra heavy oil caused a decline in sales of blend crudes such as Merey, one of PDVSA's main grades for exports.
Exports of traditional crudes to the United States such as Boscan, Corocoro, Morichal and Hamaca also fell, according to the data, made with preliminary figures.
As of May 4, more than 30 dirty tankers were waiting to load and discharge oil at Jose and Bullenbay terminals, including five U.S. crude cargoes sold to PDVSA by British BP and China Oil. Wait times have shortened in Jose in recent days, but loading or discharging at Bullenbay is taking more than five days, the data say.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Diane Craft