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Petrotrin sends home employees following oil spills

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

State-owned oil company Petrotrin last evening suspended several employees pending investigations into a series of oil spills in the Gulf of Paria.

Petrotrin’s corporate communications manager, Gillian Friday, confirmed that the employees were attached to the company’s port and marine operations at Pointe-a-Pierre. She did not confirm reports, however, that eight lower level employees were suspended indefinitely.

Friday said the suspensions were in connection with the first in a series of oil spills on December 17.

She was responding to questions by the media at a press conference yesterday at Petrotrin’s Learning Resource Centre, Pointe-a-Pierre.

The company initially reported that a weld leak developed on the No 10 Sea Line at the Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre port during fuel oil bunkers loading operations for the barge Marabella. The oil spill was successfully contained and the clean-up exercise was completed within a 24-hour period, Petrotrin stated.

Friday said the suspended employees were involved in loading and receiving fuel at the port.

Petrotrin’s senior manager of marketing and trading, Errol Baldeo, said there was a process involved in terms of disciplinary action. He said action will be taken against the persons responsible for the oil spills following a thorough investigation.

“There were 11 spills in 10 days, it is unusual. In terms of disciplinary action, there is a process involved and an investigation is ongoing. As we speak here action is being taken,” he said.

Baldeo said whether the employees would be terminated will depend on the outcome of the investigation. “By the end of this week we will have some idea of what action will be taken,” he said.  

Friday said the employees were suspended to ensure the integrity of the ongoing investigations. 

Petrotrin reported that there were 11 incidents of oil spills from December 17 to 29. Four of these leaks were related to companies that have joint ventures with Petrotrin — Trinity Exploration and Production Company and Neal and Massy Energy Resources Limited. Baldeo said 2,000 barrels of oil have since been recovered, while the cost incurred for clean-up exercises was still being tabulated. 

Petrotrin’s chief executive officer, Khalid Hassanali, said last week a total of $8 million was spent so far on cleaning up the oil spills in south Trinidad.

The area affected most by the oil spills is La Brea, where residents complained of the toxic fumes. The source of that oil spill remains undetermined.

The Express learned that several persons have been treated for asthma and other respiratory problems since the oil spill at Coffee Beach, La Brea.

Friday said doctors and nurses continue to monitor residents living in the affected areas. She said residents can seek medical attention at the La Brea Community Centre daily until 6 p.m, then they would be treated at the Point Fortin District Hospital.

She said an ambulance was stationed in the community for emergency cases.

Friday said a team continues to have dialogue with the fisherfolk and residents regarding compensation. 

She said residents were advised against lighting fires in the area, so meals were being provided daily. 

School bags were also distributed to children in the community in time for the start of the new school term yesterday, Friday said.

She said clean-up operations were completed at 11 out of the 13 affected beaches along the southwestern coast. 

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