Water filling up the Nabarima has caused the vessel to list.

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Faced with the potential catastrophe of a Venezuelan oil tanker sinking in the Gulf, fishermen are calling on the T&T government to intervene and provide expertise to save the ship.

The Nabarima, a floating stored oil tanker is docked off the Venezuelan coast of Guiria for over a decade and if it sinks, over 1.3 million barrels of oil could be spilt into the sea.

Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, assistant president of the T&T Unified Fisherfolk Association Kishore Boodram said even though fishermen were aware of the concerns, they had no choice but to go out and fish.

“In our country, people are not acting seriously when it comes to oil spills. We live on this island and we take for granted what we have. This oil spill issue is a major problem. It could devastate the Gulf. Look at the impact we had in La Brea when we had multiple oil spills. If this tanker sinks it will destroy our wildlife, our mangroves, fence line coastal communities. It will wipe out fishing as a livelihood. I think the government needs to take a more proactive role in helping Venezuela to save their ship,” Boodram said.

He also said that the COVID crisis had affected many families and with a potential oil spill the socio-economic impact will be devastating.

Meanwhile, vice president of the Claxton Bay Fishing Association Bhadose Sooknanan also called on the government o partner with the international community in rectifying the problem.

“Maybe the Venezuelans do not have the technical expertise to deal with this. If that is a supertanker loaded with all that oil, they must find a way to remove the oil from the tanker before it sinks. This is a serious problem,” he said.

Sooknanan said many fishermen were oblivious to the crisis and were continuing to fish in the warm waters off the western coasts. However, Sooknanan said currently there was a change in the currents and the winds were blowing from the west to the east.

He said if the tanker sinks, the currents will bring the spillage right into T&T’s waters stretching from the Bocas to Icacos.

Meanwhile, at Kings Wharf in San Fernando, fishermen were also bracing for catastrophe.

Fisherman Deonarine Ramkissoon said it was time for the government to act swiftly.

“If that oil let go on the ocean bed it will cost me my livelihood because it will have plenty of dead fish, plenty of dead birds, the environment will damage, people’s livelihood will go down the drain,” Ramkissoon said.

Chairman of San Fernando Fishing Cooperative Limited Salim Gool said if the tanker sinks, the entire Gulf will be destroyed.

“How are they going to solve this problem? What was this tanker doing in the Gulf? This is a real serious crisis. With the currents and the winds blowing from the west, it is possible for oil to reach San Fernando shores,” Gool said.

Earlier this week, Energy Minister Franklin Khan said they were closely monitoring the floating stored oil vessel which stores oil from the Corocoro oil field in the Venezuelan Gulf.

He says there is currently a bi-lateral oil spill contingency plan between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Nabarima vessel transfers oil to tankers for shipment abroad, but because of international sanctions, transfer vessels have stopped operation so the Nabarima is now at full capacity.