Oil spill in Trinidad and Tobago from mysterious ship causes ‘national emergency’

A major oil spill near the two-island nation in the eastern Caribbean Sea has caused a “national emergency” as crews struggle to contain oil that is already covering several beaches on Tobago’s southwest coast, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago said.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley said on Sunday that the government had not yet identified the owner of the ship that capsized near Tobago last week.

It was not immediately clear how much oil leaked and how much remained in the largely submerged ship. It was also not clear why the ship capsized.

Farley Augustine, chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, who toured the area with the prime minister, said divers were unable to contain the spill and were trying to determine how to remove the remaining oil.

Officials are concerned about the impact on tourism

Tobago is a popular tourist destination and officials are concerned about the impact of the spill. There was no immediate comment from environmental monitoring bodies.

Rowley said it was too early to know how much the cleanup would cost, but he said “some insignificant costs are being incurred just to respond to this incident.”

Workers wearing safety helmets and dirty suits stand in a wet area.
Workers from state-owned oil and gas company Heritage clean up an oil spill that washed ashore in Rockley Bay, in southwest Tobago, on Sunday. (Akash Budhan/The Associated Press)

He said that several countries, which he did not specify, have offered assistance, and discussions about these efforts are still ongoing.

“The cleaning and restoration process cannot begin in earnest until we control the situation,” he said. “Right now, the situation is not under control. But it appears to be under enough control that we believe we can manage it.”

Rowley said good weather is helping response efforts at this time.

(Tags for translation) ship

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