TT oil spill “not under control”, Rowley declares national emergency

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An unidentified ship, only known as “Gulfstream,” has triggered a national emergency in Trinidad and Tobago after leaking oil onto the coasts of the southern twin islands, particularly Tobago. 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.

The overturned and mostly submerged vessel, whose national origin and official designation remain unknown, has complicated response efforts. 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.

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“This is a national emergency, and therefore it will have to be funded as an extraordinary expense,” Prime Minister Rowley declared. “We don’t know the full scope and scale of what is going to be required.”

The oil spill, pictured on February 10, covered about 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) of the coastline in black residue. (Clement Williams/AFP/Getty Images)

The spill has already impacted many of Tobago’s southern beaches and coastline, heightening the urgency for containment and cleanup operations. The exact size and shape of the vessel remain unknown due to its overturned state, making it difficult for authorities to ascertain critical details.

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“We’re not sure if it’s a freighter, a tanker, or a barge because only the keel of the vessel is visible. And its identifying physical characteristics are in water that we can’t penetrate for the moment,” explained Prime Minister Rowley. “But we do know it appears to be broken having made contact here and is leaking some kind of hydrocarbon that is fouling the water and the coastline.”

The environmental impact of the spill is yet to be fully understood, and concerns about the vessel’s potential involvement in illicit operations have been raised. 

Authorities are working to identify the ship’s owner, origin, and purpose, as well as implementing measures to contain the environmental fallout.

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