PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday January 3, 2014, CMC – The state-owned oil company, PETROTRIN, Thursday confirmed that there were about 11 oil spills in the south of the country, but indicated that at least two of them had been the work of saboteurs.
PETROTRIN chairman, Lindsay Gillette, told a news conference that in the two cases, special pieces of equipment were needed in order to have the oil flow from the tanks.
He told reporters that there was ‘strong evidence” to show “willful acts of sabotage” insisting that the facilities were “deliberately tampered with”.
He said the two facilities in question do not support “any sort of negligence at all”.
He said one of the facilities, run by Trinity Exploration Production, a joint venture partner with PETROTRIN, “two of the plugs were removed and you would a very large wrench to remove that plug physically for that oil to flow”
He said in the other incident, “you could actually see the oil squirting from the sides of one of the flanges”.
Gillette said given the importance of the oil company to the socio-economic development of Trinidad and Tobago “these incidents must not be taken lightly.
“We will do all in our power to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice,” he said, add8ng that security was now being provided by the company as well as police and members of the Defence Force.
“We are continuing our investigations. As you would recognise it has been two weeks and we have had 11 oil spills…and our investigations are continuing,” he said, adding “we run PETROTRIN to international standards.
“As respect to security we are doing joint patrols with the police and Defence Force and we are also beefing up our security to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of this, byut then again it is very difficult to guard against these cats”.
PETROTRIN president Khalid Hassanali said that the company was dealing with the oil spills in a “structured way” adding “we are on top of the situation”.
He said while the company was dealing with residents of the communities along the south coast, it was nonetheless disappointed that over the past two days, the company had not been able to do clean up work because of actions by the residents.
“Although PETROTRIN is doing all it can some members of the community are obstructing us from doing our work,” he said.
Earlier, Opposition Leader, Dr. Keith Rowley described the oil spill in the west peninsula was “nothing short of an ecological disaster, which, from the onset, has been downplayed by the relevant authorities.
“This spill has already disrupted many lives and threatens the livelihood of a significant number of people in many communities and will continue to be a problem for quite some time and can only be properly addressed at great cost to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said, adding that “circumstances like these require nothing less than full disclosure and rigorous application of the just principles of accountability”.
He said the state-oil company “has been less than open and forthcoming with the necessary, relevant information and there are signs of gross incompetence at best and an attempt at cover-up at worst.
“Now that a definitive statement has been made that the product which has polluted the Gulf is post- refinery Bunker C fuel, the situation demands an immediate, independent, technical investigation into Petrotrin’s fuelling operations at the Point- a- Pierre refinery during the period surrounding the oil spill and realistic prognosis of the scale of the clean-up, its anticipated final standards and estimated costs to taxpayers.
“So far all the assessments of the scale, time and projected costs from Petrotrin have been worthless and misleading, resulting in a loss of confidence in the final outcome under the current approach.”
But Gillette asked by reporters to comment on Rowley’s statement, would only respond “that’s his view” adding that PETROTRIN “has a lot of professional people, well trained to deal with these things and we are working with the EMA (Environmental Management Authority) and we have already lodged our complaints with the police”.
Meanwhile, the powerful Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) said it is prepared to mobilize residents of the affected communities of the state-oil company does not respond adequately to the concerns of those affected.
“We are calling for residents to be treated with respect and dignity and given the type of treatment and attention they deserve, for what is going on. They didn’t spill the oil…they are not responsible for what is happening here. We are providing a voice here this morning. We will mobilise every single resident into action for rights of residents,” OWTU president general Ancel Roget said.
Roget, who visited the affected areas on Sunday, said the tragedy along the southwestern coastline was far from over and dismissed reports that the affected areas were almost returned to normal.
“We will expose the lie they are communicating to the country that they are 90 per cent cleaned up. This chaos they created is far from over,” he told reporters. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)