Trinidad Vows “Swift Action” to Contain Oil Spills on Southern Coast

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - December 25, 2013

Above: Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine at a spill-affected beach this week (Photo: MEEA)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Trinidad and Tobago’s government is vowing “swift action” to deal with a string of oil spills on the country’s southern coast, although their origin remains unclear.

The country has raised its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan to its highest level, meaning overseas resources will be brought in to address the spill.

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said both state-owned Petrotrin and the government would “mobilize all resources to deal with the situation and move forward.”

For now, the government said areas of “significant concern” included areas along the coast along the island’s southwest peninsula.

The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan has advised Petrotrin to set up “exclusion zones” to restrict public access to the affected beaches and warn the public about hazards.

“The source of the spilled oil has still not yet been determined. The NOSCP ICT continues to liaise with and rely on the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) for fingerprinting and identification of the spilled hydrocarbon and is continuing its air, land and sea surveillance along this south-west coastline in an effort to ascertain the source of the oil spill. Petrotrin is also conducting investigations into the source of the spill,” the government said.

The spill has affected both beaches and local fishermen; on Tuesday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Petrotrin would offer about $312 USD to fishermen unable to work in the sea because of the spills.

“My first concern is the welfare of citizens and mitigating ecological damage,” she said in a statement on Twitter. “Then to investigate the cause of the spills.”

Persad-Bissessar visited the affected La Brea area on Tuesday to survey the damage.

Earlier this week, equipment including skimmers and boons arrived from the United States’ Oil Spill Response Limited to be deployed on the southern coast.

“Our strategic priorities are the health, safety and security of residents and responders, identifying the source of the spill, its containment and clean-up and continued surveillance and monitoring of the affected areas,” the government said in a release.

Earlier this week, the government first noticed leakage on Dec. 17, with a well leak on the No. 10 Sea Line at the Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre port during fuel oil bunkers loading operations; later that day, a gasket on Trinmar’s Main Field leaked, also spilling oil into the sea.

The next day, Petrotrin received reports of oil at the Coffee Becah and Carrat Shed Beach areas in La Brea, which affected the beach and fishing vessels.

The government then triggered the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, which began its spill assessment and cleanup activities.

On Dec. 19, another leak was discovered in the Trinmar East Field, while valves were discovered to have opened two days later at the Petrotrin block in Rancho Quemado.

The government said the spills at Pointe-a-Pierre were conained, with cleanup continuing; cleanup completed and terminated at Pointe-a-Pierre on Dec. 19.

On Sunday, Ramnraine raised the level of the spill contingency plan, seeking to bring in “overseas resources.”

Trinidad is the region’s largest exporter of oil and natural gas.


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