Trinidad says two vessels involved in oil spill were bound for Guyana

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Trinidad and Tobago’s Coast Guard (TTCG) confirmed today that not one, but two vessels – a tug and barge – were involved in the oil spill it is currently battling.

“Even as investigations are continuing, video footage and other information, obtained by the TTCG, have confirmed that the two vessels are a tug boat and a barge,” a Feb. 14 release outlined. 

Preliminary investigations revealed that both vessels appeared to have been bound for Guyana. TTCG said Guyanese authorities confirmed that neither vessel arrived as anticipated. TTCG confirmed that the barge was being towed by a tug – the Solo Creed – from Panama.

“Satellite imagery also shows the Solo Creed towing an object on the 4th of February, 2024,” TTCG stated.

Trinidad’s National Coastal Surveillance Radar Centre (NCSRC) was able to use that information to track the tug in its waters towing an object. It then lost radar contact with both vessels. 

“At this stage, it is not known whether any lives have been lost in the incident,” the TTCG added. 

The incident, initially reported on Feb. 7 by the country’s emergency response agency, raised concerns about environmental damage and risks to both beachgoers and wildlife. Prime Minister Keith Rowley addressed the nation on Feb. 11, emphasizing that the situation was “not under control” and significant restoration efforts could only commence once the ongoing leak is contained. The spill has already impacted many of Tobago’s southern beaches and coastline, heightening the urgency for containment and cleanup operations.

Efforts are being made to identify the vessel and its owners; Trinidad’s Ministry of National Security, the TTCG, Guyana Coast Guard, CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), and other agencies are collaborating on this. 

As part of the investigation, CARICOM IMPACS contacted the authorities in Panama and Aruba, for photographs of the tug boat and the barge. The Dutch authorities in Aruba, provided images of the tug towing the barge, and these images were used to confirm the identity of both vessels.

Trinidad’s Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds said he appreciated the support being provided by the regional agencies.

“We have been working very closely with the Guyana Coast Guard on this critical matter and we appreciate their full-scale support. Similarly, I am appreciative of CARICOM IMPACS and the work and support of our international partners in this matter. As Minister, I give the assurance that the TTCG will continue to work with other local and regional authorities in this investigation, and we look forward to a swift and successful resolution to all our benefit.”

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