The United States (US) Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago says it strongly supports immediate action to avoid any environmental harm being caused by the beleaguered oil tanker in the Gulf of Paria.
The embassy made the statement in a press release on October 16, 2020, stating that United States, “remains concerned by the potential risk to safety and environment posed by the Venezuelan-flagged vessel, Nabarima”.
International reports have indicated that the vessel carrying an estimated 1.3 million barrels of crude oil has taken on water and has started leaning to one side. Locally, the urgency of the matter was first highlighted by Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), through releases to the media and in a letter to the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries on August 24th.
FFOS now says that the situation is deteriorating and recently told Loop TT that they contacted the US Embassy seeking humanitarian and environmental aid to the Maduro Regime. Now, the US embassy is calling for immediate action to bring the vessel up to international safety standards.
The US Embassy media release specifically singles out Petróleos de Venezuela (PVDSA), the state-owned oil company that operates the Nabarima through a joint venture with Eni S.p.A, as having a responsibility to take action to avoid an environmental disaster in Venezuelan waters.
It warns that the situation has the potential to negatively impact the Venezuelan population and people living in neighbouring countries. While the FSO Nabarima may be stranded in Venezuelan waters, its distance from west coast of Trinidad is similar to that of its distance from the coast of Venezuela.
The US embassy also took the opportunity in their media release to clarify that the US sanctions programme against Venezuela is not designed to target activities addressing safety, environmental, or humanitarian concerns. This, according to the US embassy, would mean that any activities undertaken to avert an ecological disaster, would be consistent with US policy to support the Venezuelan people and avoid further harm to the environment.
The Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs has since responded saying that they have been working together with the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries and the Ministry of National Security towards finding solutions to the Nabarima issue.
The Ministry’s press release which can be viewed here states that The Venezuelan Government agreed to permit a team of local Experts to cross the border and assess the Nabarima. It says that inspection team would receive permission to visit on October 20, 2020.
The Ministry also highlights a statement by the Venezuelan Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago describing a photograph showing severe tilting of the Nabarima in October, as “total propaganda”.
On September 11, 2020, Cari-Bois News published an interview with the team of scientists and environmental experts at local non-profit organisation ‘SpeSeas’ highlighting the fact that marine ecosystems & livelihoods would be at risk if the Venezuelan oil tanker were to sink.