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Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Dr Amery Browne.

Venezuelan and T&T authorities are confirming a date for inspection of the damaged Nabarima oil tanker before end of this week and the process will be completed by month-end, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne confirmed this yesterday.

The team to do the inspection will comprise representatives of the Energy Ministry, Institute of Marine Affairs, Maritime Services Division and T&T Coast Guard, Energy Minister Franklin Khan also said yesterday. The Foreign Affairs Ministry will co-ordinate the visit.

Both ministers responded to queries on the damaged tanker— a floating storage unit—which is in the Gulf of Paria and is operated by Venezuela’s PDVSA state oil company and holds 1.3 million barrels of oil.

There has been concern in T&T, including by fishing groups, after the tanker was reported by international maritime and other media to have been leaning and taking on water in its engine room due to a leak. Local groups are concerned about a major environmental disaster arising for T&T if the tanker sinks and the oil cargo contaminates the sea.

PDVSA and Italian company Eni, which is in a joint venture with PDVSA regarding the vessel, stated the issues were fixed last month and it was stable. Reuters news agency last week stated PDVSA and Eni are looking at options to safely offload crude from the ship. A Venezuelan contractor, Consemar Group, was recently hired to do an inspection and Eni has considered transferring oil out of the vessel and exporting it to its refining system in Italy.

Just over a week ago, after international reports of the tanker’s problems, the Energy Ministry said it would seek independent verification of the tanker’s status.

Yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Browne said the Venezuelans have indicated they completed the immediate phase of repairs and other phases are ongoing

Browne added, “We have been working assiduously on this and (yesterday) I had a virtual meeting with the Venezuelan Minister of External Affairs on the issue and a phone call with the ambassador in Port-of-Spain.”

Browne said the focal points of the inspection visit have been exchanged on both sides.