Energy Minister Franklin Khan has said the three-man team of experts sent to inspect the FSO Nabarima did not do any technical assessment of the vessel.
During a news conference hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, Khan said there was no risk that the floating oil storage tanker could tilt or sink and cause an environmental disaster.
The vessel, carrying 1.3 million barrels of crude oil, has been anchored in Venezuelan waters, close to T&T for over a year.
Yesterday responding to questions from Guardian Media, Khan said the team—a senior petroleum engineer from the Ministry of Energy, an engineering officer from the Coast Guard and a Port State Inspector from the Maritime Division of the Ministry of Works and Transport—was not allowed to take any equipment to use in their inspection.
“We weren’t allowed to go with instruments as though we are regulators in the industry. We were making a trip that was coordinated by Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was an international trip from one government to another and we were allowed to observe and take notes to ascertain the veracity of what they have been telling us over the last month or so and we are quite comfortable with what we have seen,” Khan said.
Khan said a sample of the stored oil was taken to be ‘fingerprinted’ so, in the event of an oil spill, it can be identified.
Asked if the team checked the vessel’s structural integrity, as the photos released from watchdog group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) last Friday showed massive rust spots, Khan said, “The team didn’t go and ask permission to check the level of corrosion, they did, in fact, indicate that there some corrosion on the main deck but in an open marine environment, most of that corrosion is superficial so once you continue with your maintenance plan, which is really scrubbing with steel brushes and painting over, the vessel will come back to a state of acceptability.”
He said rust on a vessel like the Nabarima was not unusual and his team had found the Nabarima’s maintenance programme acceptable.
When asked if his team could share photos and videos of the vessel with the public, Khan deferred the question Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne.
Browne said there was nothing to share.
“This is a very sensitive asset of the Government Venezuela. They consider their petrochemical industries as very secure industries, they did not allow the team, this is my understanding, to capture photos or videos but they did permit them, as Minister Khan indicated to access the various spaces on the vessel and record their observations.”
Browne said he was told that only the photos of the stable vessel were taken by the Venezuelan authorities.
He said he would request copies of those images and videos to share with the public.
Browne said a request has already been sent to Venezuelan authorities, requesting permission for a follow-up visit from T&T’s team in a month.
In late July, photos showing the vessel’s engine room flooded with water were released by PDVSA employees. Since then, the vessel has been the subject of scrutiny from many quarters.