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The Nabarima tanker in the Gulf of Paria.

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

[email protected]

Energy Minister Franklyn Khan says an assessment from the Ministry’s team of experts of the Venezuelan oil tanker, the FSO Nabarima has shown there was minimal to no risk of an oil spill from the vessel.

In an interview with Guardian Media yesterday evening, Khan said he had only just received the report from the three-man team who were sent on Tuesday to assess the condition of the Nabarima after concerns were raised about its stability by environmental watchdog group, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS).

In an expedition last Friday, the FFOS took photos and videos showing the vessel listing severely to one side and held in place by anchor chains.

But Khan said his team did not report seeing any tilt on Tuesday.

“I spoke to the team at length on that, they said they can only report what they have seen, the team of experts includes guys who have great expertise in the stability of vessels and they have confirmed that the vessel is upright, it is stable and there is very little minimal if any risk of tilting or sinking…there is very minimal risk of an oil spill,” Khan said.

He said the team could only report on what they saw on during their visit.

Although he promised a full report would be presented to the media and the public today, Khan gave a breakdown of the conclusions of the report given to him.

“The conclusions are as follows: the FSO Nabarima is upright and stable with no visible tilt and there is no imminent risk of tilting or sinking. There was no water egress visible on the vessel to the team, it was confirmed that during the incident when the engine room was flooded, as was reported in September, there was no mixing of oil and bilge water, the oil did not leak from the containment tank – this implies that the double hulls are intact and poses minimum risk of an oil spill at this time.”

He said the team also reported that major maintenance was ongoing on the vessel – with pumps and electrical motors being repaired and replaced “as needed.”

He said the report states the maintenance programme was “quite satisfactory.”

Khan said among the recommendations made by the team was that permission should be sought from the Venezuelan authorities for a follow-up visit in a month’s time to ensure the situation has not changed for the worse.

On Tuesday, PDVSA began a ship-to-ship transfer of the crude to its Aframax ship, Icaro.

But Khan said the report recommended that the transfer of oil from the vessel be done using a larger vessel. He said Icaro can only hold a quarter of the Nabarima’s 1.3 million barrel capacity at a time.

“The team saw the Venezuelans and PDVSA had started to offload the vessel, however, the offloading process is very tedious as it is being transferred to a much smaller vessel with a capacity of just about 300,000 whereas the FSO Nabarima has a capacity of 1.3 million barrels, therefore, it will take about four trips to complete. The team is recommending that efforts should be made to do a ship-to-ship transfer with a larger tanker to reduce the time and the logistics of the transfer and this will reduce the possibility of any environmental incident occurring in the Gulf of Paria,” Khan said.