Trinidad and Tobago faces national emergency as oil spill spreads

A massive oil spill from a mysterious ship has put Tobago’s coastline, carnival, and environment in jeopardy, as authorities scramble to contain the disaster and find the culprits.

An oil spill from a mysterious ship called “Gulfstream” has contaminated at least 15 kilometers of Tobago’s coastline, according to the chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Farley Augustine. He said that 1,000 volunteers have been working since Thursday to clean up the oil, and that the situation might soon be declared a national emergency.

“We are going to go to level three, (…) everything indicates that we are going in that direction,” he said, referring to the emergency level caused by the spread of the oil from the ship.

The Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) showed pictures of volunteers in white suits trying to clear the oil from the beaches.

The authorities have not been able to identify the origin, the flag, or the crew of the “Gulfstream” ship, which did not send any emergency signals or was located.

The TEMA said that there were no signs of life on the “Gulfstream”, which was thought to be carrying sand and wood as cargo.

Augustine said that divers would try to stop the leak on Saturday.

The ship, which sank near the Cove Eco-Industrial Park in the south of Tobago, was drifting towards the shore by the currents.

Augustine also said that the United Nations (UN) had offered to help, and that they were open to receive assistance from other countries.

A government source said that “all the efforts of the Coast Guard are aimed at containing the oil spill (…) it will be some time before we analyze the origins, where the ship came from and where it was going.”

Government Minister Stuart Young and Rohan Sinanan, from the main island of Trinidad, visited Tobago on Friday to assess the situation.

“We continue to offer our assistance and any assistance that can be provided,” Young said.

The environmental management agency reported damage to the reef and beaches of the Atlantic coast, before the carnival holiday, which is vital for the tourism industry of this twin island of Trinidad.

Opposition MP Dave Tancoo said that “the current spill off the coast of Tobago threatens not only the island’s precious marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of many of its small businesses, but also highlights the gaping security holes at our border.”

The oil spill also affected the traditional children’s carnival in Scarborough, the capital of Tobago, which was canceled.

Many Tobago resorts and hotels, such as the state-owned Magdalena Grand, have been impacted. A cruise ship with 3,000 passengers is expected to arrive in Scarborough on Sunday.

This is one of the largest oil spills in the country’s history, after the collision of two oil tankers, one with 276,000 tons of crude oil and another with 200,000, in the Caribbean Sea, off the island of Tobago, on July 19, 1979.

Share this news
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments