Energy Ministry approves removal of residual bunker fuel from Gulfstream

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this file photo, workers help clean up the shoreline at Canoe Bay, Tobago after hydrocarbons from a capsizied barge polluted the ocean. – THA

THE MINISTRY of Energy and Energy Industries has advised that operations to remove the remaining hydrocarbons from the capsized Gulfstream barge, off the coast of the Cove Eco Industrial Park, Tobago, have been approved and ready to begin.

On February 7, the vessel was found overturned in the sea and leaking bunker fuel some 200 metres off the coast of the Cove.

Several coastal regions along Tobago’s south-western peninsula, including Kilgwyn Bay, Canoe Bay, Petit Trou Lagoon, Rockly Bay and Topaz Beach, have been affected by the spill.

But work crews have since cleaned up much of the shoreline.

In a statement on April 13, the ministry said over the past two weeks, TT Salvage and QT Environmental, under its guidance, worked alongside local contractors and stakeholders to prepare both the topside of the wreck and to establish a temporary storage facility at the shoreside of Cove.

The ministry said the “de-inventory process” will involve the pumping of hydrocarbons from the cargo tanks on the vessel to a temporary storage location to the port of Scarborough where the hydrocarbons will be transferred to a bunkering vessel.

It said once the vessel is filled with hydrocarbons, it will then journey to Pointe-a-Pierre, where the hydrocarbons will be off-loaded and kept in a storage tank.

The ministry added it has engaged with all stakeholders to carry out this exercise, including the Tobago Emergency Management Agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Department attached to the THA, Maritime Services Division, TT Fire Services, Environmental Management Authority, Port Authority of TT and the police service.

At the funeral for former chief justice Michael de la Bastide at the Church of the Assumption in Maraval, on April 11, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine told reporters only seven out of the 12 storage compartments have been drilled to recover oil from the Gulfstream, which has been polluting coastal waters.

He said the oil spill clean-up was moving quite vigorously and some public spaces have returned to normalcy.

Saying there is still much work to be done, Augustine said there might still be about 20,000 barrels of bunker fuel in the vessel.