Trinidad oil spill classified as sabotage

(Trinidad Express) The oil spill at Rancho Quemado has already been classified as sabotage and a report was made to the police by operators Trinity Oil, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said yesterday.

“The valves that were opened could have only been opened using a specialised type of wrench,” Ramnarine said at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.

He, however, said there were no leads yet on what caused the other four oil spills but an independent team will investigate.

Ramnarine said an independent investigation will be conducted on the source of the oil spills on this country’s south-western peninsula.

A preliminary report is expected to be completed by the end of January 2014, he said.

Since last Tuesday, there have been five oil spills on the coast of South Trinidad which have affected residents, marine life and polluted the environment.

The matter was discussed in detail at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Speaking to the media after, Ramnarine announced that Minister of the Environment and Water Resources, Ganga Singh, will chair a ministerial committee comprising himself and National Security Minister Gary Griffith.

This committee in turn will appoint an independent team to probe the root cause of the oil spills, he said. He said there will be technical experts on the committee and there were discussions on the possibility of having foreign members on the team as well.

Ramnarine said no appointments have yet been made to this committee but he gave the assurance it will comprise persons who do not have any conflict of interest.

The minister said it was too early to cast blame on anyone for the oil spill, including Petrotrin.

He said the company and Government have responded swiftly to the disaster.

“At this point in time it’s very early still to say who is to blame. The Government hasn’t blamed anybody. I see some people are stepping forward and saying that they are not to blame,” said Ramnarine.

He insisted there was something fishy about the entire ordeal which is unprecedented.

Ramnarine said he discussed the oil spill with officials at Rancho Quemado who indicated the oil spill from their side was the result of a deliberate act.

While a team will be probing the cause of the oil spill, another will be working through Christmas to clean up the beaches, he said.

Four experts from Oil Spill Response Ltd—two from the United Kingdom and two from the United States—were scheduled to arrive yesterday to assess oil spill impact and lead the clean-up efforts.

Two cargo planes flew into Piarco yesterday loaded with equipment which will speed up the cleaning, Ramnarine said.

Ramnarine said he will meet with the experts today and ascertain the time-frame to clean up the oil spills.

The minister said there were doctors and ambulances at the affected areas to respond to people who may feel ill or nauseous from the vapours of the oil.

He said he was advised people there cannot cook because lighting a flame in the presence of crude oil was not advisable at this time.

Ramnarine added Petrotrin will be compensating affected fishermen with some $2,000 a day for every day they were not fishing.

He said he had advised all enterprises under his purview to beef up their security system.

He noted in places such as Nigeria and Algeria there were attacks on the energy industries.

Ramnarine said while it may not be an extreme case in this country, precaution was important.

An oil spill contingency plan, he said, was approved by Cabinet months ago which replaced a 1977 plan.

This three-tier plan, he said, was put together over a two-year period by experts from the Energy Ministry, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), the Coast Guard and other stakeholders.

The first tier of the plan involved the company dealing with its own oil spill, the second tier calls for the use of resources from the national community in the clean-up and the third tier centres on the use of international help to deal with the problem.

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