$15M allocated for initial expenses incurred from oil spill in Tobago

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$15M allocated for initial expenses incurred from oil spill in Tobago

An initial sum of $15 million has been allocated by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to cover a portion of the expenses incurred in dealing with the oil spill disaster.

The figure was revealed by THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine on Monday, during a media briefing.

Augustine said the money is expected to offset the cost of the on-the-ground clean-up and containment operations thus far.

“That is in no way close to being able to pay for the entire operation but that is to allow us to begin to pay for operations,” Augustine said.

“It started as an emergency and now that we are in the project phase of this, we now have to begin to consider payment to those on the ground and have been working without payments to date.”

Augustine also promised to address information which has confirmed a Nigerian businessman claiming ownership of the Gulfstream barge which ran aground, causing the massive oil spill.

Abraham Olalekan claimed ownership of the barge in an investigation by Guardian Media and Bellingcat into the oil spill, which started on February 7.

He also claimed to have purchased the tugboat—Solo Creed—which was pulling the Gulfstream on the ill-fated journey.

Augustine said, “I have seen the (Guardian) article and I will respond in due course.”

He noted that the Assembly was compiling information before making a move.

“We very much intend to take civil action against those that are responsible for the matter. I don’t think the dust is significantly clear in terms of with whom the responsibility lies but when we are at that place, we will take the necessary stick action,” he said.

“Whenever this time comes, the THA will initiate a legal battle for the disaster caused to Tobago and its people.”

The Guardian investigative report with Bellingcat also revealed that the Gulfstream had water leaks and required pumping services prior to its ill-fated journey.

The barge was reportedly destined for the Vreed en Hoop terminal of Guyana Power and Light (GPL), carrying approximately 4,652 metric tonnes of Bunker C fuel oil worth US$2 million.