The Venezuelan government has seized the assets of 60 local and foreign-owned oil services firms.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced the seizures Friday, saying they were authorized under a law passed Thursday by the National Assembly.

Among the firms whose assets were taken is Oklahoma-based Williams Companies, which said the government took control of two natural gas facilities. The company said it is seeking repayment of millions of dollars in services fees owed by state-run companies in Venezuela.

The takeovers come as Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, tries to renegotiate contracts with foreign and domestic oil companies in a bid to lower costs.  

PDVSA has accumulated billions of dollars of debt with contractors as oil prices fall, shrinking government revenue.  Foreign companies such as the Texas-based Boots & Coots International Well Control had suspended work over delayed payments.   

Under the new law, PDVSA will be able to run service companies that conduct a range of operations in the oil-rich Lake Maracaibo area.

The government has seized 300 boats, along with gas compression operations, docks and other installations.  Some 8,000 employees working for contractors are to be absorbed into PDVSA.  

In recent years, the Venezuelan government has nationalized major oil projects and moved to take control over industries such as electricity, cement, steel and telecommunications.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.