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

Government is still awaiting permission from Venezuelan authorities to cross the border to inspect the damaged oil tanker Nabarima – and the likely date may now be by October 20.

This picture emerged Monday from Venezuelan and T&T sources yesterday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Amery Browne, whose ministry had been arranging the inspection visit last month, said T&T’s inspection experts team is ready.

“But T&T cannot cross the border and approach any Venezuelan asset without the specific permission of the Venezuelan government,” he said.

Government has been seeking in recent weeks to inspect the damaged floating storage tanker, which holds 1.3 million barrels of oil cargo.

The vessel, which sits in the Gulf of Paria between Venezuela and T&T, is operated by Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA. It was listing to the right in July and was taking on water. PDVSA subsequently assured the issues were fixed.

When word of the vessel’s problems arose in international maritime and news reports, local fishing groups expressed concern about a possible environmental disaster if the vessel sank and oil flooded the seas. Government then sought independent verification of the vessel’s situation.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry had projected getting a date to visit the vessel in late September and completing the visit by end of that month. The inspection team comprises representatives of the Energy Ministry, Institute of Marine Affairs, Maritime Services Division and Coast Guard. It was planned they would helicopter across to the vessel, land on it, do the inspection and take samples.

The T&T Guardian has confirmed from Venezuelan sources the visit is now being pushed forward to October 20 due to “increased COVID-related issues in Venezuela’s petrochemical sector.”

Browne didn’t comment beyond assuring, “We continue to convey to the Venezuelan government the high degree of concern with which the T&T Government views the FSO Nabarima matter.

“We consistently and repeatedly use the available channels to inform them that our team of inspection experts is ready. But our team cannot cross the border and approach any Venezuelan asset without the specific permission of the Venezuelan government. We cannot do (the visit) until the authorisation to cross the border is provided by Venezuela’s government.”

Browne stressed that the ministry continues to pursue the situation closely.

The October 20 date was given as “the soonest” Venezuela could facilitate the T&T inspection.

T&T officials said they were holding for the crossover to the vessel since Government continued to push for the visit with urgency.

Up to monthend, Venezuela reiterated that stabilisation work was done on the vessel and “it was in good condition and further phases of work were planned.” The oil cargo has been stuck for a year on the vessel due to US sanctions against PDVSA.