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Capsized vessel results in massive oil spill in Trinidad and Tobago

InternationalCapsized vessel results in massive oil spill in Trinidad and Tobago

Photo: A massive oil spill from an overturned vessel off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago is “not under control,” Prime Minister Keith Rowley said.

by Marco Lopez

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 22, 2024

The eastern Caribbean twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago has retained the services of two remediation and salvage firms to aid in the clean-up of an oil spill off the coast of Tobago. For about two weeks now, a capsized vessel believed to have originated in Panama has dumped many gallons of oil into the Caribbean Sea, blanketing the turquoise water with an ominous black slick.

This has pushed the country to declare a national emergency. Emergency teams from the island have been working overtime to clean up the massive oil spill. The country hopes that the intervention of foreign firms will aid in getting the spill under control.

The vessel capsized on Wednesday, February 7, 2024. According to reports from the T&T Ministry of Energy, no emergency calls were made, and no signs of a crew, or clear sign of ownership of the craft has been ascertained. Divers report seeing the name “Gulfstream” on the side of the vessel and lengths of cable were also observed, indicating that it was in the process of being towed.

“Cleaning and restoration can only begin as soon as we have the situation under control. Right now, the situation is not under control,” PM Rowley told journalists last week.

At the time of the comment, divers were still unable to plug the leak. Hundreds of volunteers have been working non-stop since Thursday, February 8. The government has asked for even more people to lend a helping hand.

The leak has so far damaged a reef and Atlantic beaches. Residents of the village of Lambeau have been advised to wear masks or temporarily relocate.

This oil spill comes at the height of the Carnival season in T&T, threatening the tourism business that is crucial to the dual-island nation’s economy. Just how badly this spill will impact that sector and the environment is yet to be seen.

PM Rowley said that the vessel, which is about 330 feet in length, may have been involved with illicit business, adding that the country does not definitively know who the vessel belongs to, where it came from, or what else it contains.

Energy Minister of T&T said last week Friday that the government believes that the barge was being towed from Panama to Guyana via Aruba when it capsized and sank.

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