PM: Oil spill culprits not identified yet

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Cleanup efforts underway of the oil spill in Tobago. – Photo courtesy THA

THE Prime Minister has said the Government continues to search for pertinent information that will identify the owners of the two vessels involved in the February 7 oil spill off Tobago.

Extensive local, regional and international investigations are under way to locate the owners.

The vessels are reportedly the tug boat Solo Creed and the barge Gulfstream, which overturned on a reef off the southwest coast of Tobago.

Responding to a question in the House of Representatives on March 6, Dr Rowley said, “To date, whilst there have been documents and information that indicate connections with the vessel, the confirmation of ownership has so far not been had to the satisfaction of the Government.”

He added that legal action against the owners remains an option available to the Government.

Should this option be exercised, Rowley said, “The Government must be satisfied that we have pertinent and credible information as to who the perpetrators are and where liability lies.”

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal asked, “What do the documents say? Who is the owner of the barge? Who is the owner of the tug?”

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George disallowed Moonilal’s request to Rowley to lay in Parliament the documents Rowley referred to.

Rowley accused Moonilal of trying to mislead Parliament by creating the impression that he had said the Government had documents which clearly identified the owners.

“I did not say I had documents about the ownership of both vessels.”

Government MPs thumped their desks when Rowley said Government would not adopt the Opposition’s approach to treating with serious matters like the oil spill.

“The Government can’t act upon hearsay and how you feel. We have to act on evidence that is justiciable in a court of law.”

Rowley said efforts to identify the owners of the vessels include communication between the Foreign and Caricom Affairs Ministry and Panama, Aruba, Guyana and other countries.

The Works and Transport Ministry’s Maritime Transport Division, he continued, is communicating with the International Maritime Organisation and maritime divisions of other countries, including some in West Africa, where the tug could be registered.

He said the division “has also engaged a private satellite company to assist in satellite imagery of where the vessel originated and travelled from on its journey before the vessel tragically ended up on a reef in Tobago.”