TEMA in ‘command, control’ of oil spill

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A crew works to clean up an oil spill affecting Tobago’s western coastline as a cruise ship docks at the Port of Scarborough nearby on Sunday. – File photo by Jaydn Sebro

TOBAGO Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) director Allan Stewart says the island is “in command and control” of the oil spill.

He made the statement on February 14 during a news conference at the Scarborough lay-by.

The briefing updated Tobagonians and the wider national and international community about the measures that are being implemented to contain and eradicate the oil spill from areas along the island’s western coastline.

“This is one of the press briefings that I am very pleased to be involved in because we come bearing good fruits and positive information,” Stewart said.

Alluding to the saying, ‘It is not what happens to you but how you react to it,’ Stewart said the island had “climbed a very steep hill in this response…

“I must say that we are at the plateau at this point where we can say we have command and control over this particular incident and wherever it may lead us.”

He said that was not the case one week ago, “but we have made progress.”

Stewart thanked Kaizen, Heritage Petroleum, Frontier, Tiger Tank and other companies for laying additional booms to contain the spill.

He added the national oil spill contingency plan had also been very useful in the mobilisation and operational response to the incident.

“We have this under control and we will come out shining where this matter is concerned.”

Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine reiterated that Tobago’s popular beaches had not been affected by the spill.

“It is only a radius of 15km but the vast majority of our beaches, especially the ones you love, the vast majority of our reef systems, they all remain in pristine condition and Tobago is here welcoming you. They are not under threat and you can still come dive, get a sea bath. But it is not a case where the entire island is enveloped by this material.”

He said some of the hydrocarbon from the affected areas had sailed more than 88km out of Tobago waters.

Augustine also said a team of experts from OSRL (Oil Spill Response Ltd), arrived on the island on February 12 to do quality control.

OSRL is an international company to which Trinidad and Tobago is a party.

“In instances like these, they fly their expertise into the island at no cost at all to the government. They are actively reviewing all of the sites, all of the activities, and continue to give us sound advice so as to ensure that we meet international best practice.”

Augustine said attempts were being made to keep the environment as safe as possible.

“We have a team that is working 24/7 looking at wildlife species and the impact on wildlife species and they essentially are extracting species that might be at risk, that might have come into contact with the hydrocarbons and they are doing the necessary cleaning of those animals consistent with the protocols that are required in these instances.”

He said several parts of Lambeau and Canoe Bay have been cordoned for the safety of the public.

All Tobago Fisherfolk Association president Curtis Douglas said Lambeau fishermen should avoid selling fish in the area, which he regarded as a health and safety risk.

“I know this is your living but we are asking you kindly for at least three weeks to a month, could you just stop selling fish in that vicinity and we will have someone relocate you to a nice place where you all could be able to ply your trade because we don’t want anybody getting sick or infected.”