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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Tobago Oil Spill Spreading to Grenada

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

February 15, 2024

(Photo: Office of the Chief Secretary)

(Photo: Office of the Chief Secretary)

An oil spill that has stained Tobago's coastline in the Caribbean is entering into Grenada's waters and could impact neighboring Venezuela, Tobago's Chief Secretary Farley Augustine told Reuters on Thursday.

Eight days after Trinidad and Tobago's Coast Guard first spotted the oil from a capsized vessel whose owner and origin have not been confirmed, portions of the stain have moved about 144 km (89 miles) into the Caribbean Sea at a rate of 14 km per hour, Augustine said.

"It has now entered Grenada's territorial waters," the official said, following a fly-over by Trinidad and Tobago's Air Guard, which confirmed the distance the spill has gone and countries possibly impacted.

Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada's foreign affairs ministries did not reply to requests for comment.

Authorities in Grenada, Panama, Aruba and Guyana have been contacted by Trinidad and regional group Caricom for information as part of an investigation about the vessel's origin, intended destination and ownership, and an accompanying tugboat.

According to preliminary research, the ship departed Panama bound for Guyana, officials in Trinidad have said.

Guyana's Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo told reporters on Thursday that Trinidad has requested information from Guyana on the ship's destination. "If we have any capacity, then we are willing to share with our neighbors."

Venezuela, which said on Wednesday it was monitoring the spill, has been in touch with Trinidad to coordinate response action. Trinidad's Energy Minister Stuart Young met Venezuela's Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in Caracas on Thursday, her office said on social media, but the purpose of the meeting was not disclosed.

UNPLUGGED LEAK

The overturned vessel continues to leak fuel, but the situation is now under control with a 40-feet (12 m) perimeter supported by booms around the wreckage, Augustine said.

"We are unable to plug the leak and unless we have information on how much fuel is in the barge or what exactly it contains we cannot move forward, except containment and skimming," he added.

Trinidad's national security ministry said on Wednesday that it remains unknown whether any lives were lost in the incident.

A tugboat and a barge under names disclosed by Trinidad's government were identified in satellite pictures taken three days before the incident in the Caribbean Sea, reviewed by TankerTrackers.com. According to the monitoring service, the vessels were heading to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

First responders and volunteers have been trying to contain the spill and reduce its impact on Tobago's wildlife. Birds and marine animals have been impacted, so authorities continue rescue and cleaning efforts to return them to their habitat, Chief Secretary Augustine said.

(Reuters - Reporting by Curtis Williams in Port of Spain; Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston, Kiana Wilburg in Georgetown and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by William Maclean and Jamie Freed)

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