An overturned boat in Tobago is leaking oil 200m off the coast of Cove. – Photo by Jaydn Sebro
A mystery boat in Tobago was found overturned and leaking oil 200 metres off the coast of the Cove Eco-Industrial and Business Park.
In an emergency press conference on Wednesday, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the Tobago Emergency Operations Centre (TEOC) received a report, shortly after 7 am, about an overturned vessel.
Augustine was unable to confirm if anyone was on board at the time of the overturn.
“As a result, it has resulted in the THA having to engage, in an emergency basis, an operation to have some discovery on the matter.
“In the first instance, we have engaged some divers; the purpose of the divers is to see if there were any souls on the vessel at the time of it being overturned, to see if there is anything else of importance that is trapped in the vessel and to ascertain the name of the vessel.”
He said if officials can find out the name of the vessel, then ownership and the country to which the vessel is licensed could be tracked. He noted that there was also a spill which has reached the Lambeau area. He said a meeting was also being held in an effort to address the clean-up to mitigate any environmental impact.
“At this very moment, we have representatives from TEMA, the Ministry of Energy and Kaizen (Environmental Services). That meeting is to work out areas of collaboration among us so that we can take care of all of the environmental impacts that we would have pursuant to the overturning of the vessel and the oil spill.”
He said the green light was given to Kaizen, which has equipment and implements that would be stored in Scarborough, in an effort to mitigate further environmental damage from the oil spill. TEMA, he said, can use peat moss which absorbs hydrocarbons and allows for removal.
“We know we have to use other THA equipment and service providers to assist especially around the shorelines. I am advised that we do have some specialist divers on their way to Tobago, however, by the time they get here with their vessels, it would be relatively dark so we had to go ahead and utilise some experience and PADI-certified divers from right here in Tobago to begin some of the discovery for us, because time is of the essence.”
He said he was also given some assurance by Woodside Energy that it would provide some support and the utilisation of its equipment and resources, notwithstanding the fact that “they are not known for being complicit in the matter in anyway at all.”
The Coast Guard is involved and were on the scene, Augustine said.
He encouraged the fisherfolk, swimmers and jet-ski operators to avoid the area.
“Don’t go purposefully sightseeing and sailing into the area, it’s not an opportunity for us to go sightseeing, it’s not an opportunity for us to be ‘macco-cious’. Please be cautious and avoid the area at all counts, you don’t need to be in that specific area immediately.”
When Newsday visited the area on Wednesday afternoon, diver Kester Jerry, a member of the Tobago arm of the Hunters Search and Rescue Team, was on site to assess the situation and send a report. He said he was unlikely to dive owing to the oil spill.
A man and woman later arrived to look at the boat, after walking the stretch leading to Canoe Bay and then running through a track. They said they were curious to see it after hearing about it on social media.
President of the All-Tobago Fisherfolk Association (ATFA) Curtis Douglas said he and president of the Lambeau Fisherfolk Sumwatty Ramkissoon went on a boat to survey the damage.
“It was like bitumen, like tar used to pitch road. From where the boat was positioned, we couldn’t see the vessel number to even know where the vessel came from, so we really don’t know for sure.”
He said the spill will have a massive impact on the fishing industry.
“It really started with sargassum seaweed, now this. Remember where we saw this vessel – that is on a reef, it would damage the canals, the lobster, the mangroves, the crabs – they all would die. Also, that is an area where a lot of bait is caught to go out, even the boats – it would damage marine life tremendously.”
He said he is hoping that the investigation is completed soon, and the vessel is removed.
He further echoed the sentiments of the chief secretary calling for the fishermen to stay away from the area.
A representative of the THA environment division declined to comment, saying that he attended the meeting at TEMA and is awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
This story has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.
An overturned boat in Tobago is leaking oil 200m off the coast of Cove.
In an emergency media conference on Wednesday, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the Tobago Emergency Operations Centre (TEOC) received a report shortly after 7 am about an overturned vessel. Augustine was unable to confirm what caused to boat to overturn or if anyone was on board at the time.
He said divers have been contacted to help. He noted that there was also an oil spill which has reached the Lambeau area, adding that a meeting was being held simultaneously to address the clean-up to mitigate any environmental impact.