The Trinidad and Tobago government Wednesday said it is awaiting a report from a team of local experts who boarded the Venezuelan oil storage vessel, the FSO Nabarima, in the Gulf of Paria, amid reports that it had been tilting.
CARICOM and Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Emery Browne, said that the expert team assembled by the Ministry of Energy and Energy industries had been able to board the vessel after lengthy communication with Caracas on the situation dating back to several months.
“We are now awaiting a detailed report that is in progress, and I am told that the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries, Franklin Khan, would be receiving that report before the end of today. I have been expedited,” Browne said.
He said the report would form the basis “of the next steps and any further action by Trinidad and Tobago’s government on this matter.
“This is a key point in this development because, for the first time, we have had non-Venezuelan eyes and non-Venezuelan experts on the Nabarima itself to determine the shape and condition of the vessel.”
Browne said that in advance of receiving the report, Port of Spain has been in communication with the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Irwin la Rocque and the Trinidad and Tobago-based Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
“There are a number channels of communication that are ongoing so that depending on the details of the report we would be able to take in concise order the proper and required next steps,” he said, adding, “this has been determined as the best course of action because we need to understand rules and responsibilities.”
Browne made it clear that the vessel was in Venezuelan waters, and Trinidad and Tobago had to go through the various diplomatic channels to safeguard its own environment.
“The government cannot act and operate like an NGO (non-government organization) or an activist group, which may have a very different threshold for certain types of action.”
Barbados and Guyana have already said they were monitoring the situation.
The Civil Defense Commission (CDC) in Guyana said it had made several analyses and modeling of the potential threat of an oil spill from the FSO Nabarima with 173,000 tons of oil and that the prognosis does not show any direct impact on Guyana’s shores or marine ecosystem from any releases happening.
In a statement on Tuesday night said, the Barbados government said it has evaluated the issue and has devise mitigation methods in the eventuality of an oil spill.
It said that the National Oil Spill Committee and the National Oil Spill Response Team met on September 11 under the chairmanship of the director of the Environmental Protection Department to evaluate the potential risk to Barbados and review the readiness of the national oil spill response mechanism.
“The committee also sourced information from the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency, Information, and Training Centre – Caribe (RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe) to inform the evaluation.”
The Mia Mottley government said it had an emergency response unit on standby in the unlikely event of an oil spill.
Last weekend, the United States Embassy issued a brief statement in which it said Washington “remains concerned by the potential risk to safety and environment” posed by the Nabarima.
“We strongly support immediate actions to bring the Nabarima up to international safety standards and avoid possible environmental harm, which could negatively impact not only the Venezuelan people but also those in nearby countries. PDVSA has a responsibility to take action to avoid an environmental disaster in Venezuelan waters.
“As a general matter, the United States’ Venezuela sanctions program is not designed to target activities addressing safety, environmental, or humanitarian concerns. These activities to avert an ecological disaster are consistent with U.S. policy to support the Venezuelan people and avoid further harm to the environment,” the Embassy said in its statement.
Browne said that since holding discussions with his counterpart in Caracas, Port of Spain assured that the vessel is stable.