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Tobago oil-spill drifts towards Grenada

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The barge wreck – it is now thought that a tug had been pulling it (Trinidad & Tobago Air Guard)
The barge wreck – it is now thought that a tug had been pulling it (Trinidad & Tobago Air Guard)
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Tobago’s dive-sites might have been spared by the serious oil-spill that has affected other parts of the island’s south coast, as reported here on 12 February, but part of the slick is now reported to have entered the waters of another Caribbean dive-destination, Grenada – some 140km to the north-west. 

Said to be moving at a rate of 14kmph, the spillage could also affect Venezuela to the south, according to the Trinidad & Tobago authorities.

It now appears likely that the capsized and abandoned barge, spotted by Coast Guard just off the Canoe Bay headland on Tobago’s south-west coast on 7 February, had previously been under tow by a tugboat that has disappeared.

The Grenada National Disaster Management Agency said that the two governments were in contact and that it was monitoring the situation.

Oil on a section of the Tobago coastline near the barge wreck (Trinidad & Tobago Air Guard)
A section of the Tobago coastline near the barge wreck (Trinidad & Tobago Air Guard)

The Trinidad & Tobago Air Guard has now flown a number of reconnaissance flights to capture aerial images of what it describes as the “oil-like substance” for the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).

‘Owner should take responsibility’

Tobago House of Assembly’s chief secretary Farley Augustine has told press that although a barrier has been erected around the wreck, trying to pinpoint and plug the leak without knowing how much fuel the barge contained was proving to be a problem. He has called for the vessel’s owner to come forward and take responsibility for the spillage.

According to the islands’ Ministry of National Security, a suspected tugboat had left Aruba, one of the ABC islands to the west, on 4 February, drawing a barge and thought to be bound for Guyana, east of Venezuela. 

The abandoned vessel had initially been identified by scuba divers from markings as Gulfstream, but Augustine said he had received an unconfirmed report that the tugboat was the 11m Tanzania-registered Solo Creed, and that the barge was Cyprus-flagged and carrying 5,000 tonnes of fuel.

Trinidad & Tobago declared the spill a national emergency on 11 February and clean-up efforts are continuing. “This situation should not result in a paradise lost, certainly not for Tobago,” said Augustine. “We need those responsible to come clean, and we need those responsible to know that they have to pay for this mess.”

Also read: Dive-sites spared as mystery oil-spill hits Tobago, MV Wakashio causes oil spill in Mauritius, Claims Mauritius dolphin deaths linked to oil spill, Ecological disaster after Peru oil spill

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