Substance leaking from overturned vessel in Tobago now identified as diesel

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Substance leaking from overturned vessel in Tobago now identified as diesel

The oil-like substance which has been leaking from the Gulfstream barge has been identified as diesel.

The substance blanketed 15 kilometres of Tobago’s shoreline since February 7, when the vessel ran aground at Cove, Tobago.

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said yesterday that the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) had identified the fuel after testing samples first taken when the substance first washed onto Tobago’s shores.

However, the IMA is expected to take a more concentrated sample from the vessel to confirm this finding. He said the diesel type could help trace it to its origin.

Speaking after a tour with the media of several affected areas, Augustine said, “It is heavy. It is not a refined product. Notwithstanding, they (IMA) are coming back to do additional taps, and that is why the remote-operated vehicle (ROV) is working today. We could locate the best place to do the tap. Even the last sample they received had some elements of seawater in it.”

Augustine said the island was still at a Tier Two level but said the THA may need international help. In the first week of the oil spill, Augustine repeatedly said the THA and TEMA were “putting things in place” to announce a Tier Three emergency. Yesterday, however, he said he didn’t want to announce a Tier Three level prematurely.

“Given the conversations we have had with the Ministry of Energy (and Energy Industries), we can expect some further development later down this week because we are approaching a space whereby we would need to call on international resources.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries announced an international partnership between T&T Salvage LLC and QT Environmental Inc, who are licenced oil spill removal organisations with specialists.

The team and equipment from Subsea Specialist Ltd, T&T Salvage LLC, and QT Environmental Inc were expected in Tobago yesterday and will remain on the island until Friday.

The international team includes a salvage master overseeing the hydrographic survey, while a commercial dive crew will assess and plug leaks using surface-supplied air.

Based on the survey findings, the salvage team will co-ordinate with local and international organisations in Tobago to implement a layered surface fuel recovery programme. Additionally, underwater, non-floating oil detection systems will be employed to maximise the identification and recovery of all fuel leaked from the vessel.

The Energy Ministry has also enlisted the services of Subsea Specialist Ltd, an ROV contractor, to conduct ROV works around the vessel.