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T&T’s energy minister says no reports of Venezuelan tanker on verge of capsizing in Gulf of Paria

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Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago Franklin Khan says the country’s Maritime Division is not aware of a tilting Venezuelan oil tanker which is purportedly in danger of capsizing near Guiria, a report in the Trinidad Guardian said.

“The Maritime Division knows nothing about this,” said Khan when contacted by the Guardian via WhatsApp, the newspaper said.

According to the report, Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, Gary Aboud, raised the matter on August 26. Aboud reportedly said that the tanker posed a potential environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Paria. “Reports from Venezuela and in global media have indicated that a Venezuelan oil tanker in Guiria, containing approximately of 1,300,000 (1.3 M) barrels of crude oil, is presently tilted and at risk of capsizing thus contaminating the Gulf of Paria. Further, it is reported that despite several requests from the Environmental Commission of the National Assembly in Venezuela, no information about this dangerous situation has been provided,” Aboud reportedly said.

He is said to have expressed the concern that the fishing industry could be devastated if there is a spill as approximately 70 percent of fish consumed in Trinidad and Tobago comes from the Gulf of Paria.

“We share the Gulf of Paria with Venezuela. Several of our local fishing communities have subsisted for decades by fishing in this body of water. Approximately 70 per cent of fish consumed locally is caught in the Gulf of Paria.

He said that if the news of the tilting tanker is indeed true, government must “discuss and implement measures that can be taken to prevent and mitigate this potentially catastrophic spill; and if necessary, initiate the measures outlined in the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) to prepare for this potentially disastrous spill.”

He added, “We hope in these trying times of pandemic and economic uncertainty our Government does not forget its commitment stated in Part 1.05 of the National Environmental Policy (NEP) (2018) to the prevention of environmental catastrophes, irrespective of transboundary harm. We hope that clarity can be brought to this urgent situation and that if necessary, our Government will act swiftly and avert what could be a regional environmental catastrophe.”

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