Tides move oil spill away from Tobago to the Caribbean, neighbors on alert

Tides move oil spill away from Tobago to the Caribbean, neighbors on alert

PORT OF SPAIN (Reuters) — A week after an oil spill was first spotted near Tobago’s shore, portions of the stain are moving in opposite directions into the Caribbean Sea, the island’s emergency management agency (TEMA) said on Wednesday, putting the country’s neighbors on alert.

First responders and volunteers have been trying to contain the 7.46-mile (12 kilometers) spill, which is emerging from a vessel that had capsized, to avoid impacting a nearby cruise ship port, Trinidad and Tobago’s government has said. But the leak has not been plugged.

Satellite images and models suggest that waves might be taking some of the spill into the Caribbean Sea past northern Venezuela, increasing the risk that the oil impacts other beaches in Trinidad and Tobago that have coral reefs, and even other countries’ coasts, TEMA’s director Allan Stewart told Reuters.

Tides move oil spill away from Tobago to the Caribbean, neighbors on alert

“The satellite showed that some of it was moving into the Caribbean Sea, as well as some of the modeling,” Stewart said, adding that an upcoming flight by Trinidad’s Air Guard is expected to confirm the finding.

Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Wednesday on social media that the country was monitoring the spill and has initiated meetings with Trinidad’s government to coordinate action.

Trinidad’s Coast Guard found that at least two vessels allegedly bound for Guyana – a tugboat and a barge – were involved in an incident that led to the spill, the National Security ministry said in a release on Wednesday.

“The barge was being towed by a tug, the Solo Creed from Panama,” the ministry said, adding that it remains unknown whether any lives were lost in the incident. Authorities in Panama, Aruba and Guyana have been contacted by Trinidad and regional group Caricom to gather information as part of the investigation.

The tugboat and the barge were identified in satellite pictures taken three days before the incident in the Caribbean Sea, reviewed by TankerTrackers.com. According to the monitoring service, the vessels were heading to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Photographs posted by TEMA on Tuesday showed progress cleaning up Tobago’s beaches. Approximately one-third of the 15 kilometers of shoreline on Tobago’s Atlantic Ocean has been cleaned and the spill is increasingly under control, Stewart said.


Reporting by Curtis Williams in Port of Spain and Marianna Parraga in Houston; Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Josie Kao, Aurora Ellis and Leslie Adler

About Marianna Parraga: Focused on energy-related sanctions, corruption and money laundering with 20 years of experience covering Latin America’s oil and gas industries. Born in Venezuela and based in Houston, she is author of the book “Oro Rojo” about Venezuela’s troubled state-run company PDVSA and Mom to three boys.

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