TT Salvage divers to search barge for more fuel

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TT Salvage divers carry out contaminated salvage dive operations in Tobago. PHOTO COURTESY ENERGY MINISTRY –

DIVERS from TT Salvage are trying to determine the quantity of bunker fuel and other liquids still trapped in the overturned barge – the Gulfstream – which has been lodged on a reef near Cove since February 7.

Lt Colonel Jason Hills; chief of Tobago oil spill ODPM operations, gave an update on Friday during a Tobago House of Assembly (THA) media briefing at the Shaw Park complex in Scarborough.

The oil spill has attracted international attention and the search continues for the owner of the overturned boat which caused the environmental disaster. The barge has been leaking bunker fuel and polluting Tobago’s south-western coast and other territories, including Grenada and Bonaire, according to a recent BBC report. A Ministry of National Security statement revealed that a tug boat was pulling the barge from Panama to Guyana. The tug boat has since vanished and no one has accepted liability,

With regard to salvaging the vessel, Hills said TT Salvage, which has been contracted by the Ministry of Energy, has commenced some operations.

“They have done surveys to ensure that they identify the depth of the areas around the vessel to operate as well as some aerial surveys to identify the leaking fluid from the vessel. Also, they have secured some anchors to the vessel and would try to commence some diving so that they can ascertain if and how much quantity of liquid remains in the vessel at this point in time.

“There was a boom that was secured that was used to collect leaking fluid from the vessel, we need to have that removed so that T&T Salvage can commence operations within that area.”

Hills said, “We want to continue the clean-up throughout. We want to commence the transition process from the mechanical, based on the quantity of material found, to a more manual system.

“We want to start the collection of the fluid and T&T Salvage has brought a NOFI (current buster) system. Then we want to develop a really strong waste management plan which, based on advice from some of our international partners, can linger on as a plan that can go on for some time till thereafter the clean-up is completed.”

Last Wednesday, the Ministry of Energy said it had mobilised marine assets of the National Energy Com​pany to assist in the recovery of hydrocarbons utilising the NOFI current buster technology. It said that, “this system will be utilised in a near-shore tactic utilising a standard two-vessel configuration.

“Additionally, NOFI INAK Paravene System will be engaged for a single-vessel sweep tactic offshore; this allows for the use of one tow vessel providing a more efficient operation overall.”

Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) director Allan Stewart said the NOFI current buster should be in operation by early this week. The system, he said, is available in four sizes, and can collect any oil type at speeds up to five knots and is designed for maximum clean-up efficiency. It enables a single vessel to track down and collect scattered oil slicks quickly and effectively.

Hills said, to date, there was a 300-member team operating daily as well as a number of equipment ranging from backhoes, dump trucks, frac tank, excavators, trash pumps and marine vessels. The operation, he said, has three focal points: containment and collection, beach-line and shoreline clean-up, and salvaging the overturned vessel.

Thus far, he said, both liquid and solid waste have been collected.

“These items have been collected at the frac tank which has been located at both the Lambeau area and the Cove area. As well, some of the materials have been taken to the Studley Park area for collection and subsequent disposal.”