PM says no liability on Guyana’s part for oil spill in Tobago

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PM says no liability on Guyana’s part for oil spill in Tobago

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says there is no liability on Guyana even if the spilled substance off Tobago’s southwestern coast is found to be their cargo.

Dr Rowley, speaking at a media briefing at the Piarco Airport on his return from Guyana on Wednesday, said the area to pursue, is who was transporting the cargo and what liabilities exist there and take it to a court of law.

Rowley said the oil spill was widely known by Caricom colleagues and many of them described it as the type of incident Caribbean countries are exposed to from vessels transiting regional waters.

“Oil spills are a risk we live with,” the PM said.

“We’ve suffered some significant damage and are taking steps to treat with it.”

With respect to finding out who is involved, Rowley said, “The wreck in Trinidad and Tobago’s territory so far has no owner. Whoever cut it loose or lost it in the ocean … there are certain kinds of laws that cover that. If you lose something in the ocean it becomes a wreck and it becomes available to Tom Dick and Harry.

“But the vessel that was doing the towing, I don’t know that we’ve found that vessel yet but we did get information in Guyana on who was involved in importing a cargo. That information has been shared back here in Trinidad and Tobago and whether the cargo that was lost and found our shores is the cargo that they were importing, is yet to be finally confirmed.”

Rowley said there is no liability on Guyana’s part even if it turned out to be their cargo, because it was lost on the high seas.

“So, the one area that we’re to pursue is who was in fact transporting the cargo and to determine what liabilities exist there if we can find that person, because if it was the cargo, one has to determine it,” he said.

“And of course, if it was not the cargo, as the name of the vessel is shared by 300 vessels … so all these complications exist.”

On the issue of locating whoever cut the vessel loose in the sea, Rowley explained: “It is a complicated exercise to chase that down and to determine you have a liability and to confirm that and take it to a court of law.

“Right now we’re focusing on ensuring that the pollutant has minimal effect on our coastline. Minister Young would have spoken on what we’ve done so far. We’ve obtained international help and have an action plan which is being executed and the clean-up is occurring in Tobago.”