Tobago Chamber: Bring criminal charges against oil-spill culprits

Tobago Business Chamber president Martin George -
Tobago Business Chamber president Martin George -

TOBAGO BUSINESS Chamber chairman Martin George is calling on the authorities to thoroughly investigate the circumstances which caused a barge to overturn and spill fuel into the waters off Tobago’s south-western coast on February 7.

“As chairman of the Tobago Business Chamber, I am calling upon the authorities to investigate this matter and if there is merit in it, then we ask that criminal charges be brought against the master of the vessel of that ship which caused the oil leak off the coast of Tobago,” he said in a WhatsApp voice note on March 4.

George, an attorney, said section three of the Oil Pollution of Territorial Waters Act prescribes a penalty on summary conviction of $10,000 and 12 months' imprisonment on the master or owner of any vessel from which oil is discharged or allowed to escape into any waters.

“So if we have information as to who is the master, then we want the master to be criminally charged. If we have information as to who is the owner, then we want the owner to be criminally charged in relation to any vessel from which oil is discharged or allowed to escape in the waters.”

He added, “From our information, the ship was reported as being in approximately 150 metres from the coastline of Tobago, which would place it well within the territorial waters. So therefore in those circumstances, we are asking that criminal charges be laid because this has created an international scandal. It has created headlines around the world. It has been on CNN and several other major news outlets.”

George said Tobago must show that it is serious about treating with environmental disasters.

“We have to show that we are serious about dealing with and punishing the offenders so that these actions will not be repeated and the fragile eco-system of our twin island republic is going to be preserved; or if not, that people will learn that there are consequences for not preserving same.”

The fuel, which is still polluting areas along Tobago’s south-western coast, has also reached waters in Grenada and Bonaire.

As a result, the Bonaire government has reportedly signalled its intention to take legal action against those responsible for the environmental disaster.

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has said that those who are found culpable must be brought to justice. He said the THA has been conducting its own investigations and is pursuing several leads, which he declined to divulge.

On March 1, Lt Colonel Jason Hills, chief of Tobago oil spill ODPM operations, said divers from TT Salvage are trying to determine the quantity of bunker fuel and other liquids still trapped in the barge off the coast of Canoe Bay.

TT Salvage, an international company, has been retained by the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries, to salvage the vessel.


"Tobago Chamber: Bring criminal charges against oil-spill culprits"

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