TEMA: Logistical support has been a nightmare

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oil on the surface of the water in Scarborough on February 9. – Photo courtesy THA

TOBAGO Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) director Allan Stewart says the logistical support to contain and eradicate the oil spill has been “a nightmare.”

He made the statement on February 9 during a news conference at the Scarborough Lay-By, Milford Road, where one of two mobile units has been set up to monitor the oil spill. The other is in the Kilgwyn Bay area.

Alluding to an old saying, “Beg water just can’t boil cattle skin,” Stewart said assistance with respect to certain types of services has not been forthcoming.

“In some of these instances it requires beseeching, allowing our partners to understand that we live in an island and it requires a particular kind of aggressive step in order for this thing to happen in a timely manner,” he said.

Saying the experience has taught him patience, Stewart thanked those who have already given of their time and resources.

“It is encouraging to know that the folks that are making themselves available, the responders, the volunteers, the CERT 1000 volunteers that are coming forward on a daily basis, the contractors that are committing their vehicles to such a hostile environment. We want to thank them very much.”

He said based on the level of planning, communication and co-ordination so far, “I think that we are well-placed to have command and control over this event.”

Stewart also mentioned the support of Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan and Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young, who visited the island to get a first-hand account of the oil spill on February 9.

He said going forward, there must be a conversation about building capacity in Tobago to deal with disasters such as oil spills.

“As we see, we are moving towards a Tier III, which means that there is international involvement.”

Stewart said the United Nations has already reached out to him.

“That speaks positively for us rebounding better than we are currently now.”

Diver Alvin Douglas, of Tobago Marine Safety and Security Services Ltd, said an oil-like substance is still leaking from the boat which capsized near Cove Eco Industrial Park.

He said he also has not been able to identify the registration number.

“We were looking for the registration number, which will really pinpoint the owner and registered area of the vessel but it is at the stern of the vessel,” Stewart said.

“The stern of the vessel is the heaviest part of the vessel and it is constantly moving. The water there is very turbulent, very murky with very little visibility and because of that we were not able to get in closely to get the registration number.”

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the vessel, based on satellite imagery, might have been leaking coming from the east heading westward.

“We are seeing the trail of oil leaking all the way to the resting point and then we see the bulk of the leak. So that meant that this was overturned for a while. It was drifting for a while. It is just unfortunate that somehow this was not observed and we only received the call at 7.20 on Wednesday.”