Second, major oil spill from barge off Tobago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The overturned Gulfstream barge 200m off Cove, Tobago. – Photo by Jaydn Sebro

The Office of the Chief Secretary (OCS) of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has said a large amount of fuel has been discovered drifting away from the capsized Gulfstream barge off the Cove Eco-Industrial Park, Tobago.

On February 7, the vessel was found overturned and leaking an oil-like substance some 200 metres off the coast of the Cove. It was later identified as bunker fuel.

The Gulfstream was reportedly being towed by another boat, the Solo Creed, when it overturned on a reef.

Some 15km of Tobago’s southwestern coast were affected by the oil spill, including Kilgwyn Bay, Canoe Bay, Petit Trou Lagoon, Rockly Bay and Topaz Beach.

Millions of dollars have been spent to date cleaning up the original spill, and Energy Minister Stuart Young has said the eventual cost could reach US$20 million. That estimate was given before the news of the latest spill.

In a release on June 12, the OCS said Chief Secretary Farley Augustine had held an emergency meeting with stakeholders to discuss the latest development.

The meeting included other THA officials, representatives from the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries, the Environmental Management Authority, Department of Marine Affairs, the TT Coast Guard and Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management.

The OCS said a preliminary assessment “indicates that there is currently no imminent threat to the coastline.”

But it is believed that the “existing weather and sea conditions inclusive of high tides and high wave swells have disturbed the vessel, resulting in the hydrocarbon deposits.”

The OCS said the Ministry of Energy continues to manage the de-inventory of hydrocarbons from the Gulfstream.

This process involves pumping hydrocarbons from the cargo tanks on the vessel to a temporary storage location at Cove, Tobago. Tanker trucks then transport the oil to the Port of Scarborough, where it is transferred to a bunkering vessel.

This vessel then goes to Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad, where the hydrocarbons are offloaded and stored in a tank.