PM to tour Tobago’s oil spill disaster zone

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Remnants of an oil spill scars the shoreline of the Scarborough waterfront, in Tobago on February 10. – Corey Connelly

AMID intense concern from locals and foreigners alike about the future of the island’s tourism-based economy, the Prime Minister intends to get a first-hand account of the damage caused by the oil spill during a tour of the affected areas in Tobago, on February 11.

In a release, the Office of the Prime Minister said Dr Rowley will be accompanied by a ministerial team, which is likely to include Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young and Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan, both of whom visited the island on February 9.

He will also host a media conference at 12.30 pm at the Office of the Prime Minister – Central Administrative Services Tobago (CAST), Orange Hill Road, Scarborough, the release said.

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has already declared the oil spill a national disaster but noted there is a strong possibility Tobago may need international assistance to help with its rehabilitation efforts.

The oil spill originated from a boat – Gulfstream – that was found overturned in the sea some 200 metres off the coast of the Cove Eco Industrial Park on February 7. The origin of the vessel is yet to be determined.

Several coastal regions have been affected by the oil spill, including Kilgwyn Bay, Canoe Bay, Petit Trou Lagoon, Rockly Bay and Topaz Beach.

The shoreline of the Scarborough waterfront, along Milford Road, has also been blackened by the thick, pungent, oil-like substance, samples of which are expected to be examined next week.

“This is bad for Tobago. But the stories I have been hearing about this boat do not add up,” one man said at the Scarborough Lay-By as he looked at the damage caused to the shoreline. “

He also expressed concern for the future of the fishing industry, predicting it may take years for the waters along the western part of the island to return to a pristine state.

The oil deposits along the Scarborough waterfront caused the Kiddies Carnival parade on February 10 to be cancelled.

The Tobago Festivals Commission Ltd said in a release that the decision was taken as a health and safety measure, owing to the intense nature of the spill.

The commission said, however, that the children will be allowed to participate in Sunday’s (February 11) junior carnival competition in Roxborough.

Clean-up and containment operations continued apace along parts of the waterfront on February 10. A worker operating an excavator was seen dredging sand at a spot close to the I Love You Tobago sign as others gathered outside of the mobile unit that was set up to monitor the spill.

The Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) said in a post on its Facebook page on February 10 that booms were deployed around the Gulfstream. It showed photos of TT Coast Guard personnel preparing the booms onboard TTS Port of Spain (CG 41).

The agency, in a separate post, also made an appeal for CERT 1000 volunteers to participate in the clean-up exercise.

Earlier this week, Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd, under the direction of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries, has also deployed several teams to the island to assist in key areas: incident management team, business support and wildlife rescue.

BpTT, Shell, Woodside Energy, Kaizen, the Institute of Marine Affairs and the Environmental Management Agency have also been rendering assistance.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management has also been providing services and equipment to the relief effort.

In a release, the ODPM said it provided equipment from the national reserves to aid the ongoing response effort, after receiving a request for assistance from TEMA.

These included several Tyvek suits, hazmat bins, reflective vests, wheelbarrows, shovels, pitchforks, goggles, steel-toe boots, collapsible barrels, and roll polythene.

“These items will aid the oil spill clean-up and containment.”

It said the supply of these items and coordination of assistance “marks a crucial step in the national response to this impact as part of our collective mission to serve communities in times of need.”

The ODPM said it is actively monitoring the situation and stands ready to provide any additional assistance which may be needed.