UNC wants answers: Come clean on energy sector, Tobago oil spill

Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee - File photo
Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee - File photo

AS the Tobago oil spill gets murkier and unsuccessful attempts to find the owners of the vessel which continues to leak a black substance in the ocean, Energy Minister Stuart Young is coming under fire from the Opposition.

Speaking at the Opposition's media briefing on February 18, Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee called on Young to “come clean” on the mystery surrounding the vessel's ownership, its contents and any affiliation to any energy entities in the country.

“Is the owner of this vessel linked to some energy deal in TT, either at Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd or Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd or some part of a distribution chain associated with these companies?”

He referred to Young’s statement in the Parliament last Friday that the vessel which may be carrying bunker C fuel, came from Aruba and was heading towards Guyana.

“Who is Minister Young trying to fool? He figured out what the vessel was carrying. He figured out where the vessel was going, but he isn’t sure if the vessel had an owner. So, this is some sort of magical stray vessel with no owner.

“Minister Young must come clean and tell us how he knew the vessel was coming from Aruba and going to Guyana, knew what they were carrying, but cannot tell us who the owner is after 12 days.”

Noting that the barge is still leaking a substance which is affecting the economy, Lee queried the government’s reluctance to Trigger the Tier 3 spill level to attract international intervention under the national contingency oil spill plan.

Speculating there may be some effort to uphold the secrecy surrounding the vessel which remains overturned in Tobago waters since February 7, he asked “Is it that they are afraid international attention would reveal the true owners of this vessel?

He referred to similar concerns raised by Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Farley Augustine about carrying this up to a Tier 3 level to get international assistance to seal the leak.

Lee was joined by Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram who explained Tier 3 spills are normally large spills requiring substantial resources and support from regional or international oil spill cooperatives to mitigate effects perceived to be wide-reaching.

Ratiram noted that the spill has already entered Grenada and possibly Venezuela's marine space.

Lee questioned why after 100 years of experience in the industry TT is still unable to cap the leak which continues to affect fisher folks and marine life.

“It is totally incomprehensible the man stand in the Parliament and say after we have been producing oil for over 100 years, we cannot seal off the oil leak in Tobago or unable to gather any expertise to seal off the leak.”

Lee said, “Today as this nation faces a catastrophe of epic proportions with the oil spill in Tobago, Minister Young has kept to his usual play book of ‘no answers, no action and no accountability’

“Whenever there is an energy-related crisis, Minister Young as regulator runs away from accountability of providing answers.

He called for more transparency and answers related to what caused this crisis.

Ratiram also questioned the silence of the Ministry of Agriculture as it relates to the safety of the fish for food and any assistance for Tobago fisherfolks.

Given that the leaking substance is still unknown, in the circumstance, Ratiram said so too is the toxicity of the chemical that is being spilled into the sea and reaching shorelines that are spreading throughout the ocean and migrating to Grenada and Venezuela.

“Do they know if the spilled chemicals are carcinogenic? What testing has been completed thus far, and what are the results of those tests?”

He asked why this is not being done as the government has a responsibility to ensure that the health and safety of everyone involved in the containment and clean-up activities are preserved.


"UNC wants answers: Come clean on energy sector, Tobago oil spill"

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