Oct 21, 2020 News
Kaieteur News – Guyana’s Civil Defence Commission (CDC) with support from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Authority (CDEMA) is closely monitoring the sinking of an oil tanker off of the Venezuelan coast.
The 15-year-old tanker named Nabarima, is a Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) vessel that is permanently moored offshore of Venezuela at the Corocoro oil field in the Gulf of Paria, located between Venezuela and the island of Trinidad.
After production at Corocoro ceased in 2019 following United States sanctions on the Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Nabarima fell into a state of disrepair. But the unfavourable fate does not stop there, as it was recently reported that FSO Nabarima, which currently holds 1.3 million barrels of oil, is currently sinking in the Gulf of Paria.
The potential spill threatens not only the Gulf, but the entire Caribbean Sea as it can impact the ecological systems of Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago almost immediately, with the impact affecting other countries within the hemisphere over the medium to long term.
An oil spill from Nabarima would be five times larger than that of the Exxon Valdez that occurred in Alaska’s Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989. It was the worst oil spill in the hemisphere, until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The Exxon Valdez spilled 260,000 barrels (11M gallons) of oil into the Sound, with an oil slick that covered 1,300 miles of coastline and killed hundreds of thousands of seabirds, otters, seals and whales. Nearly 30 years later, pockets of crude oil remain in some locations.
Both the CDC and CDEMA have emphasized that they are closely monitoring the situation and intend to keep the public updated. In addition, the CDC yesterday made several analyses and modelling of the potential threat of an oil spill from the FSO.
It highlighted that the prognosis does not show any direct impact on Guyana’s shores or marine ecosystem from any releases happening. However, it may indirectly affect fisher folk who are licensed to operate in surrounding waters off the coast of Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Commission says that it will continue to liaise with its local, regional and international counterparts to ensure the situation is adequately monitored and that no threats are posed to Guyana, while noting that should the need arise, the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) will be activated. The responsible committee will then be tasked with conducting analysis, assessments and necessary response measures to mitigate any adverse effect on Guyana.
All fishing and sea-going vessels are urged to be on the lookout for any sighting of oil spills and to report them immediately to Maritime Administration Department (MARAD).
On the positive side, international news agency, Reuters, reported yesterday that the Venezuelan state oil company plans to offload crude from the Nabarima floating oil facility via ship-to-ship (STS) transfer amid environmental concerns.
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