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The FSO Nabarima oil tanker off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago.

There’s been no word from the Energy Ministry on its verification of the damaged oil tanker FSO Nabarima in the Gulf of Paria – but an energy sector stakeholder has advised that booms could be placed around the vessel to prevent oil spread in the event of a spill.

That advice came yesterday from Tiger Tanks (Trinidad) general manager Denis Latiff. Tiger Tanks is among Energy Ministry stakeholders and the company is among responders to issues like spills.

The ministry said last week it was seeking independent verification of the status of the floating storage vessel after international reports quoting Venezuelan labour leaders about leaks on the Nabarima.

It holds 1.3 million barrels of oil and is operated by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. It was reported to be listing to the right and taking in water.

The Offshore Engineer website last Saturday stated that in July the vessel presented an eight per cent incline that created the risk of a spill and in late August a seawater leak led to engine room flooding. The OE website stated both issues were resolved.

Heavy international reporting on the vessel’s situation prompted PDVSA’s offshore executive director Pedro Figuera to say last week that the vessel had “complied with environmental and operational standards and its conditions of normalcy and operational reliability have been deemed satisfactory,”

Venezuela was planning to remove the oil cargo to another vessel. But there’s been no word on that to date. Some international sources have speculated there is difficulty to get a vessel due to the United States’ sanctions against Venezuela.

Yesterday, however, concerns about the vessel’s stability rose afresh among fishermen along T&T’s west coasts after a circulating video online of T&T nationals in boats pointing out an oil spill in the sea.

The video was sent to Energy Minister Franklin Khan who didn’t respond on whether the video was current or old.

But Orange Valley Fishing Association president Imtiaz Ali said, “We saw it and (yesterday morning) we spoke with (Southern) fishing associations. But we have no confirmation of when it was.

“Strangely enough, however, our boats at Carli Bay were affected by oil in the water three weeks ago. However, we don’t know the source of that oil.

“We’re very concerned about the Nabarima’s situation and any oil spill threat. We didn’t work for a month in 2018 when the wellhead on a rig (called the Christmas Tree) blew in 2018 and there was a spill.

“We were promised relief packages and up to now we haven’t gotten that. Much less if something happens now to affect our fishing grounds. Any oil spill from a tanker the size of the Nabarima would be carried by the current all the way up north, so it could be more than just us being affected.”

Louis Padarath, of the Cedros Fishing Association, said he hadn’t seen the video but said the waters around Granville were clear and there was no sign of oil.

Meanwhile, Tiger Tanks’ Latiff told the T&T Guardian that he was monitoring the situation closely since another oil spill had occurred in Mauritius recently where a tanker broke in half and that country’s coral reefs were damaged.

Latiff added, “T&T has a good oil spill contingency but timing and planning is everything in these matters.”