Oil spill in TT possibly came from passing ship – Ramnarine

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Trinidad and Tobago’s former Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs, Kevin Ramnarine, believes that an oil spill which began spreading over the past week in the Twin Island Republic may be the result of a passing ship.

Kevin Ramnarine

In an invited comment, Ramnarine told OilNOW’s correspondent in Trinidad, Zailyng Burgos, he was certain that it had nothing to do with the country’s oil and gas industry but someone must be held accountable.

“The spill in the National Park of Chaguaramas is disastrous and authorities like the Environmental Management have not announced any definite information on who caused the spill but whoever it was has to be held accountable,” he said.

Gary Aboud, Corporate Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) is on record as saying the oil spill is massive, describing it as a “porridge of oil” covering large areas.

OilNow spoke with Aboud, who explained that FFOS was first informed by fisher-folk in the vicinity of the oil spill that, according to Aboud, emanated from an oil rig recently anchored one kilometer opposite Williams Bay.

Environmental Management Authority was informed on Sunday October 15 by FFOS.

However, it was stated by FFOS that the possible source of the spill emanated from   the ROWAN EXL II Rig, which is being serviced by Artemis Energy Limited of San Fernando. Camille Robinson-Reig – Minister of Planning and Development, confirmed the possible source of the spill on Tuesday October 17. Nevertheless, Minister Robinson-Reig has not confirmed yet who is using the vessel by the south of Gasparee Island as a marine dump for waste oil.

Aboud has raised serious questions about Trinidad and Tobago’s ability to manage oil waste or oil spill disasters.

“Was the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) activated to deal with oil spills as

Gary Aboud

required?  The Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI) is mandated by the NOSCP to categorize the oil spill response capacity. Oil Spills are rated by a Tier differentiation, Tier 1, 2 or 3. Each Tier requires different levels of response.  Has the MEEI rated this oil spill as yet and if not why not?” he questioned.

This, he said, is significant in the public interest as it determines the seriousness and intensity of the response to the oil spill. “The criteria for establishing the dimensions of minimum response capacity states the individual Emergency Plan can assume specific structures and strategies for each spill situation, in accordance with the accident scenarios established and their requirements,” Aboud pointed out.

“If there is no categorization of the Tier then the Lead Agency (MEEI) as well as the Response Agency, (The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard) cannot respond appropriately especially since the required response capacity is different for each Tier level. Therefore, which structure and strategy has the MEEI assumed if the Honourable Minister Khan has not stated the Tier Level?” Aboud queried.

The Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) stated that it has collected samples of the spilled oil and fingerprinted it; however, no declaration of the results has been made yet.

Aboud also stated, “Section 3.7 of the NOSCP is specific. “All parties responsible for spilling oil of 1 gallon and more or if a visible sheen on water is created must report immediately such incidents to the EMA and to the MEEI (if the party is an oil, gas or petrochemical operator), and yet no report was made all day Sunday while the culprits knowingly stayed quiet.”

Trinidad and Tobago’s Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) outlines a strict liability standard for damage from oil spills and establishes criminal sanctions including mandatory incarceration for the irresponsible and negligent party.

“Will the Law be differently enforced for high profile and well networked companies? Every year the Chaguaramas area suffers from massive oil spills and no one has ever been prosecuted or fined. The area covered in oil appears to be much larger than the city of Port of Spain,” Aboud told OilNOW.