TEMA: Tier-three response to Tobago oil spill may be triggered

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A backhoe helps in the clean-up exercise in Scarborough on February 11 after an oil spill affected the coastline. – Photo by Jaydn Sebro

AS efforts to contain and eradicate the oil spill off Tobago continue, Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) director Allan Stewart says a tier-three response to the disaster could eventually be triggered.

He told Newsday representatives of the TT contingent dealing with the spill, comprising several ministries, companies and agencies, met on February 23 with officials from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) “to discuss the possibility of a tier three response and whatever means might be required going forward.”

Stewart gave no further details.

CDEMA is a regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management in Caricom.

During a tour of the affected areas on February 20, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said although the island was still experiencing challenges with salvaging the sunken boat, the Gulfstream, and plugging the leak on the vessel, a tier-three response had not been activated.

He said there was no reluctance on the part of the THA or the government to activate tier three.

“I am not receiving any undue pressure not to declare it tier three,” Augustine said.

He also said there was a national oil-spill contingency plan that has clear guidelines as to steps that should be taken to get to tier three.

In another development, Stewart said T&T Salvage, a foreign-based company, is already mobilising its resources to salvage the Gulfstream and plug the leak.

“The company has been engaged by the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries.

“It is not a local company. But they are bringing a particular type of technology to the table to salvage and to prevent the oily substance from spreading to other territories. They are mobilising and making the necessary plans on how they will approach it, doing their ground shooting.”

He said the company’s team has also been apprised of the situation through several stakeholder meetings.

Despite the challenges of retrieving the Gulfstream, Stewart said the clean-up efforts along Tobago’s southwestern coast are bearing fruit.

“The work continues and gains are being had.”

Gulfstream, an overturned barge, was found lodged in a reef and leaking a diesel-like substance some 200 metres from the Cove Eco-Industrial Park on February 7. At the time it capsized, the vessel was being towed by a tugboat – Solo Creed – en route to Guyana. That vessel has not yet been found.