Corporate Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), Gary Aboud, has said he put his life in danger by breaching Venezuelan waters to visit the damaged FSO Nabarima oil tanker in the Gulf of Paria. Aboud made the claim via a video posted to social media, October 16, which shows him standing in a small boat pointing towards the stranded vessel in the background.
“We think it’s worth the risk of coming out here because you can see for yourself, we are not imagining it, these are not false images,” he said as he gestured towards the anchor chains holding the lopsided vessel in place.
He also shared images with an accompanying caption describing the anchor chains as “taut and under extreme pressure”. With those anchor chains being critical to preventing the approximate 1.3 million barrel’s worth of crude from spilling into the sea, Aboud said that the potential danger to marine ecosystems, fisheries and Caribbean people had become “frightening”.
“If something goes on, if we have bad weather, there are a number of circumstances that could cause the vessel to flip and there’ll be no recourse,” Aboud warned.
FFOS was the first to highlight the matter locally through a series of releases to the media and in a letter to the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries dated August 24, 2020. The FSO Nabarima was also brought to international attention by Eudis Girot, the head of the Unitary Federation of Petroleum Workers of Venezuela (FUTPV) through a series of tweets a few days later.
With three months having passed since then, Aboud is now lamenting what he describes as inaction by the government Trinidad and Tobago and an unwillingness to challenge the official position of the Venezuelan government who maintains that the FSO Nabarima is in stable condition.
In his post, Aboud said that FFOS said had repeatedly written to and been disappointed by the lack of responsiveness it received from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries, the European Union Ambassador and the United States of America’s Ambassador.
The Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs put out a press release the same day of Aboud’s visit to the FSO Nabarima stating that they have been actively working together with the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries and the Ministry of National Security towards finding solutions to the issue.
The press release additionally states that The Venezuelan Government has agreed to permit a team of T&T experts to cross the border and assess the state of the vessel on a visit tentatively scheduled for October 20.
For its part, The United States (US) Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago also put out a press release the same day saying that the US strongly supports “immediate action” to avoid any environmental harm being caused by a potential spill from the FSO Nabarima. The US embassy further sought to reassure that “activities undertaken to avert an ecological disaster” would not be in contravention of any sanctions imposed against Venezuela.
The US Embassy also warned that the situation has the potential to negatively impact the Venezuelan population and people living in neighbouring countries. This would affect Trinidad and Tobago primarily given that the FSO Nabarima’s approximate distance from the west coast of Trinidad is similar to that of its distance from the coast of Venezuela.
Cari-Bois News recently published an interview with the team of scientists and environmental experts at local non-profit organisation ‘SpeSeas’ discussing the potential dangers that local ecosystems and livelihoods would face if an oil spill from the FSO Nabarima were to take place. The interview can be read using this link: https://www.caribois.org/2020/09/marine-ecosystems-livelihoods-at-risk-if-venezuelan-oil-tanker-sinks/