Monday, December 18, 2017


Minister: Foreign assistance to be used in clean-up operations


IN HARM’S WAY: A rescue worker holds an oil-covered sea bird in La Brea on the south-western peninsula yesterday. An oil spill last Tuesday at Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre jetty has made its way southwards, threatening villages and wildlife along the coast. —Photo courtesy Marc de Verteuil, Papa Bois Conservation

Mark Fraser

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine has indicated that international assistance will be required to assist in cleaning up the oil slick along the coastline of the south-western peninsula.

Ramnarine visited the affected areas in La Brea yesterday, accompanied by Tourism Minister Chandresh Sharma and Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali.

“My initial impression is the situation is very serious,” said Ramnarine. “What we are being told here is that about three to four miles of the beach, of the shoreline, is affected in this area. There are expertise outside of Trinidad and Tobago, for which we subscribe--Petrotrin pays an annual retainer fee to a company in Florida called Clean Caribbean and they have cutting edge equipment, so I think given the seriousness of the situation, we may have to look at that option, look at triggering that option right now.”

Ramnarine said the clean-up exercise can last weeks.

“I’m told that there is equipment in the US that can do this a lot quicker. How quickly we can get that here, I don’t know. But, certainly, when I go back to the Ministry today, we will look at that.”

Ramnarine said the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan [NOSCP] would be made available to Petrotrin to assist in clean-up operations.

He said Petrotrin had already removed 700 barrels of oil from the La Brea beach.

“I’ve also been told by the exploration and production vice-president and his team that they have seen no commensurate decline in production at Trinmar, so the mystery of course remains, where is this oil coming from?”

Ramnarine said the source of the spill at La Brea remained a mystery, as well as the oil spills on the two Trinmar platforms and at Rancho Quemado.

“Rancho Quemado is pretty far from here, so at this time it is the biggest mystery. Where this has come from...I’m told there is no active pipelines around here so we continue to investigate as to what is the source, but we have to find out what the source is. HSE persons are here and medical staff for any sort of support the villagers would need,” he said.

And responding to complaints by the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) that fields were not well secured, Ramnarine said: “Unmanned platforms are a part of the industry globally, we can’t put people on every single platform. There are over 37 platforms in Trinmar, you can’t put people on every one. And even on the east coast where you have EOG and BG, there are unmanned platforms there. In the Gulf of Mexico, there are unmanned platforms. Some of these platforms are even very small, you really don’t have much room to house people on it so unmanned platforms are a part of the industry globally.”

Sharma said every person affected by the oil spills were being taken care of. He said the fishermen were in discussion with the authorities.

“The fishermen have been communicated with. They certainly have some needs that must be attended to, because we have to return them to normalcy in the shortest possible time. In the time when they cannot go out and fish they will have expenses that they will have to meet. Whatever those expense are, the Government certainly will be looking at that because they will have families to take care of. We will make sure and Petrotrin, as a corporate citizen, will also be taking care of that,” he said.

Sharma said the cause of the oil spills was a serious concern.

“What will make it more sad is if it is established that it has been an act that is man-made. It will be a horror story to think that in 2013, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, there are person or persons who may be engaged in such acts,” he said.

Fifteen families were affected by the oil spill in La Brea. The residents were advised to seek shelter at the nearby La Brea Community Centre, but they have refused.

Petrotrin stated that 25 persons were treated at a medical centre established at the Lake Asphalt human resources building in La Brea, while one child was transferred to Point Fortin District Hospital.

Residents said they were hoping that the beachfront is cleaned and their lives return to normal by Christmas.