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An oil spill in Tobago Island, Trinidad and Tobago, is seen in this handout photo released February 10, 2024. Office of the Chief Secretary - THA/Handout via REUTERS

An oil spill in Tobago Island, Trinidad and Tobago, is seen in this handout photo released February 10, 2024. Office of the Chief Secretary - THA/Handout via REUTERS

Trinidad and Tobago Cleans Up Beaches After Overturned Vessel Spills Oil

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February 13, 2024

Feb 13 (Reuters) – First responders and volunteers from Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday sought to contain an oil spill detected last week in the Caribbean country’s waters and clean areas of Tobago island’s coast already affected by the incident. 

Trinidad and Tobago’s coast guard first spotted the spill on Feb. 7, about 6 kilometers off the coast of Studley Park, the chief secretary of Tobago’s national assembly, Farley Augustine, said in a press conference on Sunday.

Barriers have been installed to contain the spill, which earlier this week had already spread in a 12-kilometer (7.5 mile) line, and protect the Scarborough port in Tobago, used by cruise ships, especially during high season as current Carnival.

First responders have been focused on containing the spill as tides change, protecting surrounding areas, cleaning beaches, deploying divers, isolating toxic material and assessing its impact to wildlife, according to officials and media reports.

“This is a national emergency here in Trinidad and Tobago,” Prime Minister Keith Rowley said on Sunday, after saying that a vessel had capsized and made contact with a reef on the coastline, causing the spill.

Officials also said they have identified the vessel as the “the Gulfstream” – citing divers that spotted the name on the side of the craft that reportedly caused the spill, without elaborating further.

The government said it will continue researching the vessel’s owner and operator, and whether the leak came from its bunker deposit. Reuters found at least three ships with similar names, and all their transponders were offline, LSEG vessel monitoring data showed. 

“It could easily have been worse,” Rowley said to explain that if the collision had happened further east, it would have reached the Scarborough port. If the spill had happened further west, much of the oil could easily have gone to a key marine park. 

An initial evaluation found only a limited impact on animals in the area, Augustine said. 

Energy minister Stuart Young said some energy companies operating in the country, including British BP BP.L, have provided equipment such as remotely operated vehicles to help with the investigation and cleanup.

(Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2024.

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