Officials trying to contain oil spill after boat capsizes in Tobago waters

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Officials trying to contain oil spill after boat capsizes in Tobago waters

Clean-up efforts are to continue today as crews try to contain an oil spill in Tobago waters from reaching the coastline.

This after an unidentified vessel capsized in waters off the island yesterday.

Officials from TEMA, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries, which is the custodian of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan and leads the Incident Command Team in the event of a major spill, and Kaizen Environmental Services, a company that specialises in oil spills were on hand yesterday, after news of the spill was confirmed.

Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, Farley Augustine, said Kaizen, which has equipment stored in Scarborough in the event of a spill, gave TEMA and the THA the green light to use the equipment “as we try our best to mitigate against further environmental damage from the oil spill.”

He added that TEMA has in stock and will use sphagnum peat moss, which encapsulates the crude oil that floats on the water’s surface and can subsequently be recovered with a large net.

Other equipment and service providers have been engaged to respond to the spill and capsized boat.

“I am advised that we have some specialist divers on their way to Tobago. However, it will be relatively dark by the time they get here with their vessel. So, we had to go ahead and utilise experienced and PADI-certified divers from right in Tobago to begin some of the discovery for us. Because time is of the essence,” Augustine said.

According to Augustine, Tobago’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment coordinated the response from land, while the T&T Coast Guard coordinated the response at sea “to ensure that we can mitigate against further environmental damage.”

The boat, which has unidentified origins and cargo, capsized sometime overnight Tuesday into yesterday and is stuck on Cove Reef, prompting concerns about the reef’s health as oil leaks.

According to TEMA and the THA, several areas are in the crosshairs of oil moving onshore based on its current trajectory. Augustine said oil will impact Lambeau and Rockley Beaches.

“There is a possibility that the Magdalena area may be impacted as well. We saw signs of it coming up to the roads to what is known as coming up to the port of Scarborough,” Augustine said.

As oil and fuel comes up onto the shoreline, he also cautioned people to avoid the areas for recreational use. “But we will be moving as quickly as we can move to take care of the oil spill,” he said.