Millions of dollars in losses from Chaguaramas fire

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A firefighter attempts to out a fire with seawater at the Caridoc compound, Chaguaramas, July 5.
– Photo by Faith Ayoung

A FIRE at CL Marine’s Caribbean Dockyard and Engineering Services Ltd, known as Caridoc, in Chaguaramas destroyed about 65 pieces of fibreglass materials used by oil and gas companies to sheath their drilling pipes, resulting in losses estimated to be in the millions of dollars, Fire Service said.

The blaze broke out at 9 am on July 5 and was brought under control by firefighting units, but not before it inflicted substantial damage.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Andy Hutchinson said the fire engulfed a storage area approximately 20 metres by 20 metres, containing 65 rolls of fibreglass materials.

“The cause has not yet been determined but the investigation is underway.”

President of the Fire Services Association Keone Guy said the loss is estimated to be in excess of several million dollars.

Northern Division Assistant Chief Fire Officer Sampson said units from Four Roads and Chaguaramas stations were first on the scene, encountering thick black smoke billowing from the site.

“They called for additional assistance and a unit from divisional headquarters on Wrightson Road was dispatched.”

The additional unit deployed a high-trans high-volume-vehicle, capable of sourcing water from the sea to feed the fire hoses.

Firefighters implemented a two-prong approach, Sampson said, combining defensive and offensive tactics to combat the intense blaze.

A leak in one of the hose can be seen near the firetruck as fireofficers set up the lines to out a fire at the compound of Caridoc, Western Main Road, Chaguramas, July 5.- Photo by Faith Ayoung

“They had breathing apparatus and a ground monitor also in play because of the volume of the material burning.”

Sampson said while fibreglass was not inherently flammable, it posed significant challenges due to potentially unknown materials mixed with it.

“We were unsure of what else is embedded within the material that caught on fire as Caribbean Dockyard had not yet disclosed what else was there that could be burning.”

The thick smoke and hazardous fumes prompted police to block off the Western Main Road to protect nearby residents from harmful by-products.

Sampson said officers utilised a mix of foam, seawater and freshwater to fight the blaze.

Additionally, a tractor was brought in to help separate the burning fibreglass, allowing firefighters better access to the core of the blaze.

The T&TEC also assisted by de-energising the power lines in the vicinity.

There were no reported injuries.

Sun shines on a leak in one of the hose as fireofficers out a fire at the compound of Caridoc, Chaguramas, July 5. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

In 2020, the government confirmed it purchased CL Marine Ltd and its subsidiaries in liquidation.

A press release from the Ministry of Finance on September 11, 2020, “The Government would have bailed out the CL Financial Ltd Group of Companies to the tune of over $28 Billion and it being the largest creditor, filed a winding up petition in the High Court in July 2017.

“It is expected that in addition to private sector customers, the shipyard will be utilised to maintain, service and repair the Government’s fleet of vessels, including the two new Fast Ferries, APT James and Buccoo Reef and the two new Cape Class military vessels, under construction in Australia, the Galleons Passage, the existing Coast Guard fleet, among others.”

In 2022, Caridoc’s drydock submerged under water, two years after the Ministry of Finance acquired a $119 million dry-docking facility as part of Clico’s debt recovery.

Calls to Caridoc chief operating officer Wayne Beharry went unanswered.