A call to shut down the operations of Petrotrin and investigate its board has come from Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), following a series of oil spills that affected fisherfolk on Trinidad’s south-western peninsula.
FFOS president Gary Aboud said on Tuesday the relevant figureheads must be held responsible and should face prosecution in the courts for the social and environmental risks posed to communities along the peninsula, who fear that more oil is headed their way.
“The decent thing to do would be for the relevant persons to step down, including president of Petrotrin (Khalid Hassanali),” Aboud said.
“Where is the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General in this? The law is very specific about hauling the culprits to court for the damage.”
Aboud said statements by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the leaks were as a result of sabotage must also be taken very seriously.
“If the Prime Minister is right, then a state of emergency must be declared and the military must be put on high alert, because it means Trinidad, a vulnerable country in this respect, is in high danger.”
Aboud has also criticised the use of the term “contingency plan” by the Ministry of Energy Affairs and line minister, Kevin Ramnarine, who at the weekend disclosed that as part of the national oil spill emergency plan, an SOS for international help had been sent out.
“A contingency plan does not include an SOS for outside help that takes days to reach Trinidad,” Aboud said.
“What that means is that you are not prepared to deal with a disaster. That is what must be made clear.”
In light of reports that more oil is being spotted offshore along the south-western peninsula, Aboud said Petrotrin should be shut down immediately and the sources of the leaks located.
“If I run a gas station and there is a leak and gas is all over the floor, would I not immediately evacuate my staff and find the source of the leak?” Aboud asked.
“Well, this is what is happening here in a manner that can affect the entire country, as the Gulf of Paria works anti-clockwise and will continue to spread this oil. The population must understand that this is a national emergency.”
The long-term negative effects on the fishing industry will affect thousands, Aboud said, with much of the fisherfolk sector, which is now estimated around 75,000 citizens, already suffering losses from trawling, pollution and seismic surveys in oil and gas exploration.
Aboud said the current situation spells clearly that even after a century in the oil and gas business, Trinidad is unprepared to deal with a large-scale disaster.
“God forbid that there is a gasball fire, which leaves nothing in its wake, it will disintegrate even human bones...there is no plan at all for the safety of our innocent citizens,” Aboud said.
“Where are the emergency evacuation plans, the bunkering facilities, the burn facilities,” he said.
Aboud said FFOS was also calling on the Government to “be a good neighbour” and alert Venezuela to the possibility of oil reaching their coast.
“It is criminal not to inform your neighbour of a possible disaster coming their way that you have created,” Aboud said.